Air Peace chairman, Allen Onyema
A probe to establish a link between the $44.9 million wire deal traced to Air Peace chairman Allen Onyema in the United States and the Presidential Amnesty Office has reportedly began.
It was learnt that after the U.S. Government released indictment charges against Mr. Onyema and the airline’s Chief Finance Officer Ejiroghene Eghagha, a former top officer of the Amnesty Programme sneaked out of the United States to evade arrest.
Four firms/Non-Governmental Organisations involved in the wire deal scandal reportedly have links with the Amnesty Programme Office and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) according to preliminary findings, and investigators have also found the wire deals to have the imprints of some former political office holders.
One of the firms is Foundation for Ethnic Harmony (FEHN) which handled the training and transformation of some former Niger Delta militants for both the Amnesty Programme Office and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
A top EFCC source who spoke in confidence, said: “Detectives have been able to establish that some of the firms/groups/NGOs were engaged in humongous contracts by NDDC and the Amnesty Programme Office for the training of some ex-militants abroad.
“Such contracts were spread for over 10 years covering some foreign jurisdictions and some administrations in Amnesty Programme Office and NDDC.
“We are probing links between the amnesty cash and the $44.9 million in the indictment charges.
“Our team will interact with relevant desks and analyse the financial records of the affected agencies.
“Some few persons have claimed that more than of the contracts for the training of ex-militants were awarded to groups/ firms allegedly owned by Onyema. Our comprehensive investigation will determine the veracity or otherwise of this.
“Depending on our findings, we are likely to invite some past coordinators and top officers of the Amnesty Programme Office and NDDC.”
The source added: “We are strongly suspecting that some amnesty funds might have been laundered. But when we go into the books, we will be able to establish the truth or otherwise.
“There is a nexus between the timelines in the indictment charges and the years some contracts were awarded to Onyema. Our job is not to prejudge, we will do a thorough assignment.
"Detectives are retrieving all banking records of the firms/ groups and NGOs.
“We will be fair and firm. And we will release details of our findings soon. We will invite all the key actors, including Onyema, and officers of relevant banks.”
The Nation reported that a former top officer of the Amnesty Programme Office has been declared wanted by the EFCC in connection with the ongoing investigation.
“We got report that the said former officer has relocated from his hiding place in the United States since the US inquiry intensified in the last six months,” the source said.
According to a research document, “between 2009 and 2011, the amnesty programme was allocated N127 billion (US$819 million) in the national budget.
“Of this amount, N3 billion was the ‘take-off’ grant, N30 billion was spent on militants’ stipends and N96 billion on feeding the militants. In 2012, N74 billion (US$477 million) was allocated to the amnesty programme.
"When this is juxtaposed with fiscal transfers to the Niger Delta region between 2009 and 2012—for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, N241 billion (US$1.55 billion), and for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) N246.6 billion (US$1.6 billion)—the scale of state largesse is astonishing.
“These fiscal transfers are separate from the sub-national budgets of the six core oil-producing states in the Niger Delta, which totalled N1.74 trillion (US$11.2 billion) just for the fiscal year 2012.”
The figures from 2013 to date were being awaited last night.