Against the backdrop of inauguration of a committee on Tuesday 27 August 2019 by the Lagos State House of Assembly to probe the immediate past administration of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, a group by the name ‘Eko Heritage Group’, has come out with a list of methods it alleges the former Lagos helmsman used to siphon money from coffers of the state.
In a two-page advertorial published in the PUNCH newspaper of Wednesday 4 September 2019, the group, which also says the list is the beginning of a series to be released, accuses Ambode of the following misdemeanours.
1. Road contracts awarded to CRANEBURG CONSTRUCTION COMPANY. In the advertorial, the group accuses Ambode of awarding a mouth-watering contract of $300million for roads construction in his constituency of Epe. The engineering company was said to have just been established in 2016 without any road construction record. They hint that ownership of the company could be traced to him.
2. Alleged illicit business relationship with Access bank’s Group Managing Director Herbert Wigwe. According to the group, “In 2016, Wigwe was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly helping former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, launder millions of dollars. It is therefore befuddling that against sustained dissuasion, Ambode still chose to do business with him.” They accuse him of making the bank contractor and the sole banker of the state.
3. Foreign bank accounts. He is also accused of having links with “private accounts in countries like Seychelles and Mauritius.”
4. Choice properties: The former Governor is linked with some skyscrapers in Eko Atlantic City.
5. The Lagos transit bus controversy: This was the major grouse the State House of Assembly had against Ambode’s government at the time which brought the two arms of government to a head on collision. The House accused him of embarking on the gigantic project without the constitutional approval of the assembly. He is accused of spending a whopping N45billion to purchase 820 buses as against the budget of N24billion and N7billion in 2018 and 2019 respectively which were said to have been turned down by the State House of Assembly.
6. VISIONSCAPE DEAL: Ambode is accused of changing the Environmental Management and Protection Law of the state and signing a multi-million dollar deal with the Dubai-based Visionscape Sanitation Solutions Limited with the sole aim of personal enrichment. The group says the state Accountant General’s office was given a standing order to make monthly remittance of N713.7million to Visionscape. This, the group said, was costing the state a staggering N8.56billion annually.
7. Operating bank accounts via proxies: He is accused of operating many fraudulent bank accounts by proxies as conduit through which the state resources were heavily pillaged. The group cites the case of three bank accounts recently discovered and frozen by the EFCC. The accounts are domiciled in First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Access Bank, and Zenith Bank with numbers 5617984012, 0060949275 and 1011691254 respectively. The accounts were said to experience fund inflow in billions from the Lagos State revenue accounts during his administration.
The anti-corruption agency said it discovered a huge inflow of N9,927,714,443.29 from the state accounts into the FCMB account opened on 17 September 2018 and operated by Adewale Adesanya, permanent secretary in the office of the Chief of Staff to the then Governor Ambode. Adesanya is presently being tried for money laundering.
8. One Lagos Fiesta: The former Governor is accused of reorganizing the state’s annual end-of-the-year cross over programme in a way that would enable him to award questionable contracts to himself through fronts. According to the group, “The concerts cost the state government hundreds of millions of naira of unbudgeted funds some of which reportedly found their way back into the pockets of the governor and his cronies.”
9. Nepotism and cronyism: Ambode is accused of recklessly sacking perceived loyalists of his predecessor and replacing them with his loyalists in order to have complete hold on the state and her resources. “No contract was too big to unilaterally award cronies, friends of his wife and female friends. A case in point is the management of facilities inside the Lagos State University (LASU), which was contracted to a close ally of his wife.” The group alleges, promising more revelations.