The immediate past governor of Rivers State and current Minister of Transport, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi illegally acquired and diverted not less than N40 billion of Rivers State funds into the presidential campaign of the All Progressives Congress (APC) which saw the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as President, emerging details are revealing.
Funds running into billions of naira were unaccounted for in sleazy misappropriations allegedly facilitated and presided over by the former Rivers State governor. Sources informed about the shady deals under Amaechi availed SIGNAL, details that show how Rivers State’s treasury was emptied into private concerns of the former governor as well as the APC presidential campaign.
In October 2015, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate the sale of state assets in Rivers State under Amaechi demanded the immediate prosecution of Amaechi and all his cronies involved in the illegal sale of Rivers State assets. According to the panel report, Amaechi misappropriated over N97 billion in the sale of the state valued assets.
“The commission recommends that the former governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, along with his former commissioners for Finance and Power, Dr. Chamberlain Peterside and Augustine Nwokocha, respectively, should be held to account for their roles in the sales of the power generation assets of First Independent Power Limited and the disbursement of the proceeds therefrom.
“Government accepts this recommendation and directs the office of the Honorable Attorney-General and commissioner for Justice, to promptly set in motion the appropriate machinery for the recovery of the proceeds of the sale of the gas turbines from the former governor, Rotimi Amaechi, and every other persons implicated in the commission’s report,” the Commissioner of Housing in Rivers State, Emma Okah, who spoke on behalf of the State Government, said.
In August 2015, reports in the Nigerian media were awash with Amaechi’s ownership of several foreign accounts. In one of the reports, it was alleged that “the sum of over 757 million U.S. dollars was stacked by Amaechi in a foreign U.S. Bancorp/Minnesota account.”
In swift reaction, the Integrity Group, a non-governmental organization, sent a petition to President Buhari as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission chairman to investigate Amaechi for the over N70 billion allegedly stolen from the Rivers State government.
According to investigative reports, backed with several documents attached to the Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry report, this amount is separate from the N21 billion which the PDP claims Amaechi transferred from the Power Assets proceeds account of Access bank to the accounts of three private companies with a 25 Trans-Amadi Road, Port Harcourt address. Those companies are Advante Consulting and Management Company, Result Imports Experts Company, and Capital Ltd.
The PDP in Rivers State claim that there are many more instances of fraud and theft perpetrated by the former Governor, which is why they are asking President Buhari to probe Rotimi Amaechi’s past. But instead of probing Amaechi, his role as the benefactor of President Buhari’s campaign was fatly rewarded with a government appointment as Minister of Transport under Buhari.
A source who did not want to be named disclosed to SIGNAL that the sum of N6 billion was single-handedly provided by Amaechi to support President Buhari for the APC presidential primaries alone. “The N6 billion largesse Amaechi donated to Buhari just for the primaries alone is what was partly spent settling over 8,000 APC delegates. Buhari outspent Atiku, Kwankwaso and the other aspirants. Delegates were settled in hard currency before and on the grounds of the primaries. Seven bullion vans brought Amaechi’s money into the arena of the APC presidential primaries. How do you think Buhari got the ticket? It was Amaechi’s money that did the job”, the source said.
Amaechi also allegedly funneled over N30 billion into the overall presidential campaign of the APC across the thirty-six states of Nigeria. “Amaechi was the one spending most of the money for media, for the US consultant David Axelrod and most of the private jets and vehicles used by APC during the campaign were provided by him. That’s why he became known even within his party’s circles as the ‘ATM’”, an informed source who pleaded anonymity told this newspaper.
As fresh facts continue to emerge, Amaechi is alleged to have drained Rivers state reserves from N55 billion to N1.24 billion within the time frame of a single year. Out of the amount allegedly withdrawn by Amaechi, N53.93 billion was said to be without a list of expenditure. BudgIT, a civic startup that disseminates budgets and public data, made the revelation via its Twitter handle. BudgIT stated that it obtained the information from FBN trustees, while disclosing the figures.
“Amaechi had access to over N3 trillion during his eight years as Rivers State governor, but failed to leave funds for the development of the state. His only ambition was the wastage of Rivers State money like a prodigal son on his political ambitions”, a senior Rivers State government official who did not want to be named told SIGNAL.
More sleazy revelations on how Ameachi ran Rivers State into penury have continued to filter into the public space, the recent being how he allegedly lavished the sum of N82 million on the 80th birthday dinner of Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka.
Despite the deluge of allegations, the former governor has continued to deny the reports. In one report, he denied ownership of bank accounts in the United States and Switzerland. In a statement, Mr Amaechi said the stories were concocted to ridicule his person and achievements. Efforts by SIGNAL to get Amaechi’s side of the story have proved abortive.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Buhari’s ruling party has risen in stout defence of Amaechi insisting that officials of anti-graft agencies cannot probe Amaechi without evidence. The party said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would not touch leaders of the ruling party except it has solid evidence.