Andy Uba on Friday denied ownership of the controversial $15m bribe, saying he merely allowed former Delta State governor, James Ibori to use his house to deliver the money to a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu.
Mr Uba, who is currently serving as a Senator in the National Assembly, had been mentioned by a businessman, Chibuike Achigbu, in an affidavit some days ago as the receiver of the money.
Mr Achigbu had claimed that he raised the money as campaign funds for use in financing some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates and then passed it to Mr Uba, who in turn handed the money to the EFCC to give it a clean bill of health.
But Mr Uba, who was a special assistant to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Domestic Affairs from 1999 – 2006, said in an emailed statement by his aide, Chike Okeke, in Abuja that he gave the money to the then EFCC Director of Operations, Ibrahim Lamorde.
Mr Lamorde is the current EFCC chairman.
Mr Uba said, “When I was in the Presidency, my house in the Villa was a convenient place for many top people in Nigeria to come.
“Probably, Chief Ibori didn’t want to go to the EFCC office to hand over the money and so decided to use my house.
“All I know about this matter is that Chief James Ibori brought some money to the then EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
“The details of the transaction were undisclosed to me at the time. The money was handed to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who invited his then Director of Operations, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to fetch it.
“I was never a party to the transaction between Ibori and Ribadu. That my house was used as the venue for the transaction is not in question as an affidavit to that effect has been sworn to by the current EFCC chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, which is probably the point of confusion.
“I hereby state unequivocally that I have no involvement in this matter beyond that stated above.
“So, I’m not involved and will not be involved in this matter. Nobody should drag me into it please.”
The sum, which Mr Ibori allegedly offered the EFCC as bribe to compromise its investigations by the anti-graft agency, has been kept in the strong room of the Central Bank of Nigeria as an unclaimed property since August 2007.
Following an ex parte motion by the EFCC, an Abuja Federal High Court on July 25, 2012, granted an interim order forfeiting the $15 million to the Federal Government.
The court, presided by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, ordered that if nobody steps forward to claim the money within 14 days, it would be finally forfeited to the Federal Government when the motion on notice for final forfeiture comes up for hearing on September 17, 2012.
Since the court granted the interim order, some stakeholders in Delta State had been arguing that the money should be handed over to the state, which Mr Ibori governed between 1999 and 2007.
The Delta State Government had claimed that the money rightly belonged to it and that the court should order its return to its treasury.
Arrest Uba, Ribadu and Achigbu
Human rights lawyer, Festus Keyamo, had called on the federal government to immediately arrest Misters Uba, Ribadu and Chibuike Achigbu and charge them for money laundering, conspiracy and bribery.
In a press statement signed by Mr Keyamo and made available to journalists, the lawyer urged the federal government to arrest Mr Ribadu, interrogate him and charge him to court for conspiracy to pervert justice.
According to him, it is either Mr Ribadu on the one hand is lying that he was offered $15million as bribe or Andy Uba, Misters Ibori and Achigbu on the other were all lying that it was not bribe.
“Arrest Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, interrogate him and charge him to court, if necessary, for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury as regards the proceedings in Asaba when he swore on oath or procured another to swear that he was given a bribe.
’This is because, it is either Ribadu on the one hand is lying that he was offered $15million as bribe or Andy Uba, Ibori and Chibuike Achigbu on the other are all lying that it was not bribe.
’’Both versions cannot be correct and any version that is false amounts to a crime under our laws.
However, Keyamo urged the federal and Delta state governments to immediately withdraw their suits for forfeiture of the bribe money from court.
He asked all other parties to back off from pursuing cases for the possession of the bribe money and said that it was a national embarrassment.