The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, and Head of Operations, Mr. Martins Izuogbe, for allegedly receiving $115m from former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Okonkwo was arrested on Monday while Izuogbe was picked up on Wednesday.
The two men are undergoing intense grilling and may not be released until the anti-graft agency has completed investigations.
Diezani was said to have invited Okonkwo to help her handle some cash, which would be disbursed to electoral officials and groups in the build up to the 2015 presidential election.
Punch quotes a source in the EFCC as saying the fraud was uncovered when the EFCC began investigations into how Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials in Rivers, Delta and Akwa Ibom states received N675.1m.
The detective said, “The MD of Fidelity Bank has been arrested and is currently in our custody. During investigations into the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners, we got a major breakthrough as funds disbursed were traced to Fidelity Bank.
“We invited the MD, who then confessed to us that during the build-up to the presidential election, Diezani invited him to a meeting in Abuja. Diezani told him that some companies would deposit some funds in his bank and that she would give him further instructions on how the funds would be disbursed.
“The first company, Auctus Integrated, deposited $17,884,000 into the bank. The second company, Northern Belt Gas Company, deposited $60m while another company, Midwestern Oil and Gas, deposited $9.5m. A fourth company, Leno Laitan Adesanya, deposited $1.85m while the MD himself received $26m in cash.”
The source alleged that Diezani’s son, Ugonna Madueke, later served as a middleman between the former minister and the MD of the bank.
He said it was Diezani’s son who forwarded the names of the beneficiaries of the funds, which included INEC officials and several interest groups as well as election monitors, who were expected to compromise the electoral process.
He said, “The MD said it was Diezani’s son that sent him a list of beneficiaries which included several INEC officials and election monitors across the 36 states. Diezani specifically instructed that the funds be disbursed at least a day or two before the elections. The total amount of money was $115m and Diezani told the bank to convert the funds into naira, which was about N23.3bn at the time.
“However, the suspects told us that the volume of money was too big and they had problems converting the funds. So, Diezani told the bank MD to use the bank’s funds and hold on to the dollars as collateral and that after elections, the bank could use the dollars to replace the bank funds.”
The Nation also quotes a source in EFCC as saying: “A day or two before the presidential election, she (Diezani) gave a distribution list to the Fidelity Bank Plc MD and instructed that the $115million be changed into Naira and shared to INEC officials in the 36 states, some individuals and NGOs.
“The MD said there was no way the bank could meet up with the conversion of the $115million into Naira and distribute at the same time. Diezani pleaded with the MD to use the Naira in the bank’s vault. She said if the bank changed the dollars later, it could make Naira replacement. That was how the money was distributed to INEC officials in 36 states, some individuals and NGOs.
“The MD instructed the bank’s Head of Operations, Martin Izuogbe, to communicate with all Fidelity Bank branches to effect the distribution of the cash to alter the presidential election poll results.”
“About N681million out of the funds was disbursed to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Cross River State and four others.
“It is obvious that more Resident Electoral Commissioners and INEC officials will soon be invited for interrogation.”
Diezani, who is currently battling cancer, was last year arrested by the National Crimes Agency in the United Kingdom for sundry allegations.
Attempts to speak with Fidelity Bank spokesperson, Mr. Ejike Ndiulo, proved abortive as his telephone was switched off.
The bank is expected to issue a statement on Thursday.