Seized $50m: Prof Sagay Tells Wike To Present Evidence Of Ownership
Five days after $43.4m, £27,000 and N23m (about $50m) was uncovered in a building in Ikoyi, Lagos, the controversy surrounding the huge cash had yet to be resolved as of Sunday.
While the relevant agencies of government, who should unveil the identities of the owners of the seized funds, have maintained an undignified silence, the blame game on who stashed the money in the Ikoyi, Lagos apartment continued.
On Sunday, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), asked Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to present evidence of ownership of the $43.4m, £27,000 and N23m (about $50m) uncovered in a house in Ikoyi, Lagos, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission last Wednesday.
Also on Sunday, Wike sought divine intervention on the seized cash while the PDP insisted that the ruling All Progressives Congress used part of Rivers State money to fund its electioneering in 2015.
After the seizure of the money by the EFCC on Wednesday last week, the commission had gone before a Federal High Court in Lagos where it claimed that no one had come forward to claim the cash and obtained an interim forfeiture order.
The court then ordered that the money would be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government if no one came forward within 30 days to show proof that he or she owned the cash.
The National Intelligence Agency had also gone to President Muhammadu Buhari to claim ownership of the funds and also reportedly present documents as evidence that the funds were approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
However, Wike, on Friday, claimed the money belonged to the Rivers State Government but was stolen and stashed in the Ikoyi house by his predecessor and current Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
The governor had earlier said the money was proceed from the sale of gas turbine belonging to Rivers State by Amaechi.
Amaechi had dismissed Wike’s claim, describing it as reckless and unfounded, saying he (Amaechi) knew nothing about the seized billions.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on Sunday, Sagay said Wike must present evidence that the cash belonged to the Rivers State Government or else he would not be taken seriously.
He said, “The court has already given an order that the seizure should be advertised and anybody, who has an interest or thinks he is the owner, should come in and file an affidavit and explain the basis upon which he is claiming the money.
“So, if Rivers State is serious about what it is saying, it has a fair opportunity to present its case. This should not be a matter of politics. This is something that has to be legally established; not politics of attack.
“They (state officials) need to file an affidavit to establish ownership and if they can’t, they will lose. So, they have an avenue to establish ownership now and let them go ahead.
“The Rivers matter is pure politics as far as I am concerned. Since the NIA has claimed ownership, all they need to do is to go to court and present documents and satisfactorily convince the courts that it owns the money and it was obtained legitimately.”
But Wike, on Sunday, called on Christians in the state to seek God’s intervention over the seized $43m.
Wike explained that this was necessary in order to ensure that the Federal Government returned the money to the state government.
Speaking during an Easter service at Saint Peter’s Anglican Church in Rumuepirikom, Wike said the church had the responsibility to pray for God to touch the Federal Government of Nigeria to return the money to the state’s coffers.
“We need the prayer of the church because there is nothing that prayer cannot do. Pray that God should touch the government of Nigeria so that it will return the money to us. What we are interested in is for the money to come back to us,” he stressed.
Wike pointed out that contrary to the allegations by Amaechi, he had not declared war on the Federal Government.
According to him, the Rivers State Government is simply requesting the return of the seized funds to the state.
He said, “I cannot declare war on the Federal Government. Anybody bringing Buhari’s name should leave Buhari and face his own problems. The issue is who kept the money at the Ikoyi residence?
“The money was kept there by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. No amount of blackmail; no amount of distraction will stop us from getting our money.”
Wike argued that “the selective war on corruption” would not help the development of the country.
The Vicar of Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, Rumuepirikom, Venerable Israel Omosioni, prayed God to grant the request of Rivers people for the Ikoyi billions to be returned.
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