As the ongoing probe of $2.1billion arms deals continues, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday gave “ThisDay” publisher Prince Nduka Obaigbena a two-week ultimatum to refund N670million allegedly collected for unexecuted contracts.
Publisher of Thisday newspaper and the owner of Arise TV, Nduka Obaigbena, surrendered to agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja yesterday.
Obaigbena told investigators that he never benefitted from slush funds from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
He said the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan paid the said sums to “ThisDay” and the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) as compensation for the bombing of the newspaper house by Boko Haram and the seizure of copies of many newspapers by the military.
He said there was a presidential proclamation by former President Jonathan that “ThisDay” will be compensated for the loss to Boko Haram.
He said Jonathan made the pledge after an inspection visit to the newspaper.
Obaigbena was quizzed for two days on the activities of General Hydrocarbons and inflow into the company’s account from ONSA.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “What we are investigating is General Hydrocarbons. Records from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) indicated that Nduka Obaigbena is a director of the company.
“ONSA reported that General Hydrocarbons was one of the companies that received payments purportedly for contracts without contract documents or approval.
“Between December 8, 2014 and May 23, 2015, Obaigbena received N670million from ONSA. The reasons stated on the payment mandates are as follows: First tranche of N150million(environmental security project) and the remaining tranches(payment for energy consultancy)
“Obaigbena said he was paid compensation of N550 million for the bombing of “ThisDay” office in Abuja but there is no nexus between this payment and the money he collected for contracts. None of the sums shows that what he got from ONSA was compensation.
“The complaint before us is that the company was given money without contractual agreement.
“By all records, Obaigbena was paid for unexecuted contracts. It is government’s funds and he has to refund the N670million, “ an EFCC official said last night.
Another source privy to the investigation said: “The EFCC has given Obaigbena a maximum of two weeks to refund the amount he collected from ONSA.
“Obaigbena has signed an undertaking to refund the money in question. The anti-graft commission has also granted him an administrative bail.”
On the payment made to NPAN, the source simply said: “Investigation is still in progress.”
The source added that EFCC operatives were courteous and Obaigbena was friendly and unperturbed during the investigation.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that Arise TV was abruptly brought off the air in London over a £3m debt, including nearly £1m owed to Arise TV employees.