A foremost civil society organisation (CSO), Network Against Corruption and Trafficking (NACAT), has challenged Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade to go to court if he is aggrieved over its exposé on how he misappropriated state funds and diverted over N500 billion to private accounts of different companies and government functionaries in eight years.
Recall, NACAT at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC to investigate Governor Ayade over the alleged financial sleaze.
The group had said it embarked on a comprehensive audit of the Cross River State government’s accounts between 2015-2020 and discovered financial infractions and irregularities ranging from circumvention of procurement processes, suspicious payments of money, possible money laundering, to award of contracts to non-existent shell companies.
NACAT made reference to various payments made to certain account numbers without any explanation of what they were meant for contrary to financial regulations.
It cited Financial Regulations 603 which states that, “all vouchers shall contain full particulars of each service such as dates, numbers, quantities, distances and rates and will invariably be supported by relevant documents such as LPOs, invoices, special letters of authority, time, sheets, rates etcetera.”
NACAT said that the governor had engaged in money-laundering schemes by using his personal companies, Leophina Works Limited and Hally Brown International Limited and the office of the chief of staff to divert public funds.
According to the group, Leophina Works Limited was incorporated in Port Harcourt, Nigeria with registration Number 631232 with the following directors, notably, Ayade Alami Elizabeth, Alade Akinseye Peter, Akinseye Francis, Francis Ayade and Ben Bengioshuye with company’s registered address as Plot 4, Ada George Street Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
“On 2nd February 2015, a transfer of N17,813,530.93 was made from CRSG RECURRENT EXP. (FAAC) ACCOUNT, 2017445579 (First Bank) to Hally Brown International Limited. The company is owned by Ben Ayade, Francis Ayade and Goddy Tedy Agbbe.
“On 02/11/2016, HALLY BROWN INTERNATIONAL LIMITED owned by the family of Governor Ben Ayade received payments of N49,000,000.00 and N42,872,614.72 from the CRSG CONSOLIDATED ACCOUNT with number 2030459287 domiciled with First Bank of Nigeria. The company’s directors are Dr Ben Ayade, Francis Ayade, and Goddy Tedy Agbbe.
“Cross River State government needs to explain in details the following ‘in-and-out’ transactions in Zenith Bank account 1012499828 in the name of Leophina Works Limited. Who are the beneficiaries of the following debit entries and for what? 22/2/2018 – N200,000,000 and 16/1/2018 – N200,000,000.
“Cross River State government needs to further explain similar ‘in-and-out’ transactions in Access Bank account no. 0007104615 in 2019, through Leophina Works Limited, especially the debits. 07/03/2019 -N170,000,000; 28/03/2019 – N30,000,000; 28/3/2019 – N10,000,000; 13/02/2019 – N170,000,000; 7/01/2019 – N170,000,000; 03/07/2019 -N170,000,000; 02/08/2019 – N170,000,000; 02/09/2019 – N170,000,000; 07/03/2019 – N170,000,000; 28/03/2019 – N30,000,000; 28/3/2019 – N10,000,000 and on the 13/02/2019 – N170,000,000
“On what basis did Leophina Works Limited receive two transfer of N50 Million each, totaling N100 Million on 03/05/2019 as TRUSTFUND PENSIONS? The government should speak on this.
“Cross River State government and Hally Brown International Ltd account 2 no. 0707004424 in Access Bank should explain the basis of the following debit entries: 07/03/2019 – N269,956,012; 11/02/2019 – N269,891,867; 08/01/2019 – N269,000,000; 08/07/2019 – N320,000,000; 15/08/2019 – 320,000,000; and 18/09/2019 – N320,000,000.”
Among the long list of entities cited included the sum of N250 million transferred from the Cross River State Infrastructure Company Limited (Infra Cross) with account number 1022036905 domiciled with United Bank for Africa to Zeka Global Company, incorporated on January 20, 2020.
It said the Corporate Affairs Commission maintains the company has no traceable address.
“We are calling on the EFCC and ICPC to immediately commence an investigation into Governor Ayade’s activities while in office.
“The audit report clearly shows that he misused state resources and engaged in financial crimes. We believe that he must be held accountable for his actions and made to face the full wrath of the law.”
The group had alleged that on May 19, 2015, the CRSG recurrent expenditure (FAAC) account witnessed same day structured cash outflows via transfer in tranches of N643,500,000, N213,000,000, N643,500,000 and the purpose of the transactions was not stated.
“On May 14, 2015, the CRSG recurrent expenditure (FAAC) account witnessed same day structured cash outflows via transfer in tranches of N637, 000,000, N463,000,000. The purpose of the transaction was not stated.
“On 26th March 2015, the Cross River State Internal Revenue Collection Account witnessed same day structured cash outflows via transfer of N100,000,000. The purpose of the transaction was not stated.
“On 26th March 2015, the Cross River State Internal Revenue Collection Account witnessed same day structured cash outflows via transfer of N6,000,000. The purpose of the transaction was not stated.”
Also, on 13th January 2016, “the Office of the Chief of Staff, Governors’ Office, Calabar Eco Bank account witnessed same day structured cash outflows via cheque withdrawal in 10 tranches of N10,000,000, amounting to N100,000,000.”
“On June 7, 2017, the Cross River State permanent secretary for Local Government Affairs, Mrs. Mary Jane Ebri, carried out multiple self-withdrawal of N10,000,000 10 times amounting to N100,000,000 from the CRSG Ministry of Works, Calabar Capital account domiciled with a first-generation bank. The purposes of the withdrawals are not stated.”
But Governor Ayade, while speaking through his chief press secretary, Christian Ita, however, denied the allegations stressing that it was untrue.
But responding to the governor’s denial, NACAT, in a statement on Friday, co-signed by Tega Samson, its executive director of Investigation and Stanley Ugagbe, operational manager, said it stands by its findings, but however challenged the governor to go the court if it is not true.
“As a responsible CSO, we are throwing an open challenge to Governor Ayade to take us to court if he believes we lied against his wanton looting and misappropriation of the state funds. We will not be dragged into exchange of words with a hired NGO that cannot carry out the kind of audit and investigation of government accounts like we do in our organisation, arguably the first of its kind by any NGO in Nigeria.
“Contrary to Mr Ita’s accusation that we are being sponsored by the opposition political party to expose Governor Ayade in order to deter him from his tribunal case, we are pleased to tell him and the nation that every governor in Nigeria will have their books opened to the public, including past governors who wasted their state resources, irrespective of political parties and petitions submitted against them to national and international anti-graft agencies and embassies.
“The task to minimise corruption starts with us as NGOs, before the EFCC, ICPC and the CCB and if the only role we can play is to carry out investigations, make public and submit to the agencies; we have gladly taken up this mantle. And if it leads to Golgotha, so be it,” the statement said.