The former governor of Jigawa State, currently in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has threatened to bring down former President Obasanjo with him if the EFCC doesn't let him off the hook over corruption charges filed against him at the Federal High Court Abuja last week.
Turaki is charged with stealing N36 billion from the coffers of Jigawa State as well as diverting state funds through several front companies run by his associates and his blood brother, Bashir Turaki. The alleged associates as well as Bashir Turaki are currently on the run. Turaki is accused of using four companies, among them INC Natural Resources Ltd., Arkel Construction Ltd., and World Cat Construction Limited, to siphon state funds. One Ahmed Mohammed, still at large, was also charged with Turaki as co-accused.
As governor of Jigawa State, Turaki took overdraft loans from Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) in the sums of N1.3 billion, N1.2 billion and N400 million respectively. These overdrafts were part of Turaki’s scheme to empty the state treasury.
The Turaki administration appointed Guaranty Trust Bank as its official bank. Investigators allege that the bank issued loans to the tune of N1.6 billion to INC Natural Resources Ltd, N3.9 billion to Arkel Construction Company, and N3.9 billion to Wild Cat Construction Company. Turaki is believed to own all three companies.
The ex-governor issued Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) to Equatorial Trust Bank for N200 million, UBA for N150 million and First Inland Bank for N22 million against statutory revenue allocations accruing to Jigawa State allocations for monies borrowed for his private businesses.
Despite Saminu Turaki's open robbery of his state resources, former President Obasanjo granted his company, INC Natural Resources, three oil blocks in 2006. INC was to pay $105 million for blocks 252 and 292, but paid only a $20 million deposit under a special arrangement with the government. This was less than the 25% mandatory deposit required by law. The Department of Petroleum Resources claimed that the $20 million was to be used to fund an ethanol project.
Obasanjo's cozy relationship with Saminu Turaki has had a curious history. It began when the ex-governor was found with large sums of money laundered on behalf of the late Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha.
Turaki has told investigators that he cooperated with Obasanjo by arranging to transfer $22 million into a special account owned by the ex-president. The sum was routed through Andy Uba, Obasanjo's senior special assistant on domestic issues.
In return for forfeiting part of the Abacha loot, Saminu Turaki was never prosecuted nor mentioned as an accomplice in the Abacha regime's money laundering schemes. Instead, Obasanjo developed a warm relationship with Turaki, ignoring several petitions that detailed the ex-governor’s corrupt practices.
The unseemly partnership came in handy during Obasanjo’s ill-advised gamble to amend the constitution in order to go for a third term in office. Saminu Turaki provided N2 billion through Andy Uba to fund the third term campaign. Each senator who supported the campaign was given N50 million by Obasanjo through Emmanuel Andy Uba who coordinated the bribing of lawmakers.
With his trial about to resume in court, Saminu Turaki has threatened to spill it all in court. Two sources have told Saharareporters that negotiations are going on behind the scenes between the embattled former governors, Obasanjo and Umar Yar’Adua.
Our sources revealed that Obasanjo is already jittery over the prospect. Late Saturday night soon after he returned from a trip to Tanzania he placed a call to Nuhu Ribadu pleading that he softpedal on Turaki’s prosecution.
According to one source, Yar’Adua is inclined to allow the EFCC to move against three former South-South governors, namely Lucky Igbinedion, James Ibori and Peter Odili, described by an EFCC official as the “axis of corruption” in the last dispensation.
One stumbling block, according to our sources, is that the three former governors—especially Ibori—donated heavily to the Yar’Adua presidential campaigns. A faction within Yar’Adua’s inner circle is said to have told him to discountenance the blackmail value of such donations, insisting that Obasanjo, not Yar’Adua, had arranged for them. But another faction is arguing that Yar’Adua stands to suffer political damage if the three South-South ex-governors reveal that they were pressed to dip hands into state coffers to fund the Yar’Adua campaign. Andy Uba and James Ibori were seen last week Wednesday at the Aso Rock Villa in furtherance of the series of the meetings aimed at putting out the fire on the ex-governors.
Vice President Goodluck Jonathan stands to be negatively affected if the EFCC proceeds with a total clampdown on corrupt ex-governors. As soon as he was selected as Yar’Adua’s running mate, Jonathan reportedly looted N4 billion from the coffers of Bayelsa State to fund the last presidential election.
His wife, Patricia, was also being investigated by the EFCC for laundering $1.5 million.