Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues




October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Seyi Oduyela


The arrest and eventual trial of the big names in the Advanced Fee Fraud in Nigeria by the Ribadu-led Anti-Financial fraud Commission has opened a new chapter in the Nigerian government efforts to take the bull by the horn. Many Nigerians did not take the commission serious. At first the arrest to me seemed like several other ones we have had in the past. These men, Ade Bendel, Fred Ajudua, Emmanuel Nwude, Maurice Ibekwe and others yet to be arrested have done so much damage to Nigeria's image in and outside the country.

I have had an encounter with Alhaji Nuhu Ribadu, even before his appearance at the Justice Oputa-led Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission; and I know what he has been doing behind the scene as a Police lawyer to fight these fraudsters, and what he has been able to do and what he can do to fight this social scourge. I won't say more than that. Ribadu is an officer who believes in using every means genuine to fight a cause he believes in. He has been very helpful to journalists, who do not cover crime for handouts but for the purpose of unearthing crime.

Alhaji Nuhu Ribadu was able to go this far because his commission was not placed under the Inspector General of Police, because he would have been subdued. The case of James Ibori, Governor of Delta State and how the Police handled the investigation speaks volume of the person and character of the Inspector General of Police, and most recently the Anambra State crisis in which Tafa Balogun is now playing the Pontius Pilate.

I am writing on this now because I have waited long to see the trial come to fruition and so far I am expressing my satisfaction in Ribadu's efforts in ridding our country of these men f the underworld who do not rob with gun but with pen, Internet and brain. Those who do not know about this scam may not know or believe that it is in actual fact a Pandora box. It is an octopus. I know much about the story and also investigated it when I was in Nigeria. One of my friends in journalism gave me the document running into 300 pages in 2002. It took me a week to digest the information on how these men led by Emmanuel Nwude destroyed an investment, the sweat of a family that span over 70 years, within 3 years. The deal started in 1995 and lasted till October 1998, according to the information at my disposal.

Banco Noroeste had been in existence for over 70 years but the duo of Nwude and Anajemba, with the help of the gullible and greedy Sagakuchi helped in getting the sum of $242 Million out in three years. Sagakuchi is a friend of Dr. Ukeh an ex-convict who brought the 'business' to the duo of Nwude and Anajemba. I read in the document how Nwude imported marble worth $38 million from Switzerland to Nigeria. Nwude has 40% shares in Union Bank, owns L'Amour Bottle water.

I am still wondering why the Ribadu-led Commission has limited its dragnet to the Advanced Fee Fraudsters leaving other agencies involved in the laundering of the loot. According to the document, these men for the laundering used about 15 commercial banks from 1995-1998. Notorious among the banks is African International Bank. On a day, this bank got 184 Million Naira into one account in April 1996. This was at the time when the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency issued a directive that no individual can deposit more than 500,000.00 Naira in his account and the maximum a corporate organization can deposit at a time was put at 3 Million Naira. What was done was that at different times in one day different cheques were deposited to one account. African International Bank was formerly known as BCCI, a bank caught and shut down worldwide for money laundering in the late 80s, but because the then Sultan of Sokoto is a major share holder in it, the Babangida-led government allowed the change of the Bank's name to African International Bank. Other banks used are Diamond Bank, Zenith Bank, Gulf Bank, Union Bank, Equatorial Trust Bank and many others. The loots were sent to the banks through wire transfer from the Banco Noroeste's foreign account to a bank in Switzerland, transferred to a bank in New York and then to these banks. Some of them used some foreign bank as midway. What is surprising too is the silence of the Central Bank throughout this period.

Apart from banks, some individuals were also used and they have not been called for questioning. One of them is the Managing Director of a commercial bank now, he is Frances Atuche. Atuche during this period was the Managing Director of Finacorp one of the financial institutions used in the laundering of the money to Nigeria. A certain amount was paid to Atuche through the Finacorp account and it is also said that Atuche and Naresh Asnani are friends. Until lately, Asnani was a director of Platinum Bank where Atuche is the Managing Director and Dr. Pat Utomi, the Chairman.

One of the lessons I learnt in this case is that in the world of 419 trust is a strange language, no one trust each other. You can also fall victim of your partner. Advanced fee fraud is not for friends but for business partners who must keep their eyes open. This deal according to investigation led to the brutal murder of Ikechukwu Anajemba when he proved smarter than his colleagues did.

According to findings after the deal had been completed, Anajemba was expected to turn in some of the loot that came in through his phoney companies, this he refused to do and the manhunt started. This manhunt ended when he was caught on his way from his village back to Enugu in October 1998. He ran into an ambush and was brutally murdered. After his death, they went after his wife, who refused to recognise her late husband's business partners, as, according to her, there was no evidence that her husband had dealing with anybody and no record to show that he owed anybody. This fight was still on until the long arm of the law caught up with them. This is a case of dog eat dog. Since after her husband's death, Mrs Anajemba has been living with about 8 Mobile Police who serve as escorts and guards in her GRA Palatial estate in Enugu.

Before Ribadu and his men, the police had this information but never investigated, they did but were making money from it. I am aware that Ukeh had written threat letters to Amaka Anajemba, over the loot. Ukeh, a medical doctor who once wanted to be Enugu State governor, never practised as a doctor, but was once jailed in the United Kingdom. The police, according to sources went to Ukeh's house, though he was not in, but they found gun, he was arrested and later granted bail.

A letter of petition was sent to the Inspector General of Police who never bothered to investigate this matter. It is sad that the police has been turned to the highest bidder takes it. Where people of questionable character like Otunba Johnson Fasawe, Emeka Offor, Uba and many others use Police trained with taxpayers' money to protect themselves and their ill-gotten wealth. Otunba Fasawe is by no means a very rich man, but how did he make his money? Has anybody ever bothered to question this man? He was arrested with old man Afolabi over the $214million Sagem S.A. bribe. Offor owns Chrome Airline, Afex bank, and many other blue chip companies, someone without a sound formal education, and nobody has ever bothered to ask him for the source of his wealth! These are people who gain unhindered access to the seat of power where the likes of Yemi Giwa of Nigerian tribune are denied! They don't enter the villa with pass; they have automatic access to Baba and the Turaki, including the Uncle Bola Ige's murder suspect, Senator Omisore. Maurice Ibekwe smuggled himself to the National Assembly and he became a member of House Committee on Police Affairs. He did not go to the National Assembly to serve his constituency; he went there to protect his dubious business and enjoyed the cover under the kleptomaniac Na'Abba. There was another Alliance for Democracy (AD) member of the House in the last Republic who also used his office to swindle a Korean businessman; this man is elderly and no more in AD.

These fraudsters too saw sense in investing where that matters, the media industry. Ade Bendel, in 1999 established Evening Express, at least to boost his image, but since the investment was from unclean money, his General manager also squandered the fund and so evening express went to sleep never to wake up till today. Ajudua is believed to be the brain behind another magazine in Nigeria. Let the Ribadu Commission go beyond these guys and go after their friends. Let the justice be even.

I think there is still one man Alhaji Nuhu Ribadu should lookout for. He has been very elusive, evasive and slippery. His first name stars with D and his last name with B. he is a Yoruba man. He is hiding under fish depot business along the Abeokuta expressway, not too far from Abule-Egba. From findings he is planning to spring or he has sprung up a local airline in Nigeria.

The story of Nwude and Anajemba has demystified Ajudua, Ade Bendel and the likes of Maurice Ibekwe. With these new discoveries, Ajudua and his men are like petty fraudsters. What we want to hear from Ribadu and his men now is: who are the backers of these men? They have ears and eyes in high places; they have men in Central Bank, Ministries and even the Presidency. A onetime Police Public Relations Officer has been fingered as assisting these men in drafting some of their letters.

What is amusing is the way the Nigerian media is now celebrating this story and trial. The story is not new neither is the document on the deal new. The document had been a source of revenue for some media houses in Nigeria since 2001. Some media houses had made so much money from covering up this story. Some of them made as much as 15 Million Naira to keep mute over this story and yet they are part of those celebrating this story now.

While they are facing trial, the junior ones are still at it. They still keep sending emails to people introducing them to business and sending proposals to foreigners. Who is to blame these men or their preys? Their preys are as guilty as they are. No sane man would want to do business with someone he has not met before. It takes a thief to deal with a thief. Sagakuchi had been using his bank's money to run a deal without the knowledge of the bank; it was also surprising that the accounting firm that audited the accounts of the Bank for the period of the fraud did not detect the fraud. According to Karl Marx, nature has enough for everybody's need but not for everybody's greed. What killed Sagakuchi were greed and his fellow victims of Advanced Fee Fraud. I have got so many emails from Nigerian fraudsters; I have been involved in reporting these men to Cyber cafe owners in Nigeria, whenever I go to cyber cafes to browse back home. I have also gone as far as forwarding emails sent to me to the then Police Public Relations without anything positive coming out of it. The Ribadu commission's step is a welcome one. This is just the beginning and I am sure many would still be caught.

The Ribadu commission should focus on the cyber cafés, where the Internet has been colonised and now serves as den of these new generation fraudsters. While in Nigeria, I visited more than 20 cyber cafés in Lagos and Abuja and only a few of them do not permit these nefarious activities. The Police who go to raid cyber cafés are not helping situation. They do not know what to look for, so they go in to arrest and harass users of the cyber café. At the Festac town, cyber café owners 'settle' the Police on monthly basis to allow their business to flow without interruption.

What they do apart from sending letters is also to clone, regenerate and change credit card information. The Nigerian government alone cannot handle this, because, we do not have credit card facility but Nigerian government in cooperation with the United States, Britain can clamp down on this cartel.

More powers to Alhaji Ribadu's elbow.



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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.