The Coalition of West African Investigative Journalists (COWAFIJ) has called on the President Bola Tinubu-led Nigerian government to probe the Rural Electrification Agency’s Managing Director, Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, for alleged money laundering and breach of the public procurement act.
The group made this call in a statement signed by Gboyega Adeoye, the union Secretary-General detailing how Mr Salihijo manipulated his several bank accounts details and opened some accounts in his mother’s name to siphon public funds.
COWAFIJ’s attention was called to viral reports of how 37 bank accounts were tracked to the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Rural Electrification Agency REA) Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, according to the statement.
His Biometric Verification Number (BVN) was connected to all of his bank accounts.
The statement reads: “It is more worrisome that our investigation into the matter, revealed that two of the said accounts domiciled with Zenith Bank and Jaiz Bank are in his mother’s name Ahmad’s mother, Hajia Bilikisu Salihijo is a Director in the National Board for Technical Education NBTE, an agency under Federal Ministry of Education. As if these were not enough, we also discovered crafty manipulation of his name and dates of birth in the process of opening these bank accounts so as to cover his tracks.
“Ahmad juggled his names, using: Salihijo Ahmad Ahmad, Ahmad Ahmad Salihijo and Ahmad Salihijo. Ahmad as account names in the various bank accounts belonging to him, with the two in his mother’s name earlier mentioned in similar fashion: Bilikisu Ahmad Salihijo (in Zenith Bank) and Salihijo Bilikisu in Jaiz Bank. Same discrepancy goes with the dates of birth of the accounts’ holder, reading: October 201983vJuly 272009, January 1, 1989, May 32012 January 292015, August 241985, March 302004 among others.
“The fact that the REA boss succeeded in perpetrating the highfalutin crimes, bordering on forgeries shows clearly that some bank officials are also complicit in the financial shenanigan. We make bold to also tell the world that only two of these 37 accounts were declared in Ahmad’s Asset Declaration forms he submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau dated September 32020.
“The accounts declared are his salary account with GTBank and one other account domiciled in Standard Chartered Bank. Whatever motivated the 38-year-old Ahmad to have multiple bank accounts in this manner; it is anti-transparency and can never be for the common good.
“And let it be mentioned here that the World Bank and African Development Bank gave over $550m under Ahmad’s watch, in repayable grants to Nigeria Electrification Project, NEP, a unit in Rural Electrification Agency, REA, tasked with delivering energy access to poor communities nationwide.
“It becomes worrisome that despite the humongous sum at the disposal of NEP, access to power in disadvantaged communities in Nigeria remains a mirage.”
The union also claimed that the money allegedly siphoned by Salihijo as turned to liabilities and public debts for the government to repay.
The statement continued: “We are aware that the federal government is duty-bound to repay those grants and so, it behoves this new administration to be circumspect in dealing with how the grants are spent, particularly when it is obvious that such fund has not sufficiently answered the purpose for which it was granted. Energy poverty in Nigeria’s underprivileged communities is still very endemic and on the rise.
“We call on President Tinubu to urgently institute a probe into the affairs of REA under Ahmad Salihijo, to unravel how the over $550m loan of which $350m is from World Bank, was disbursed.
“COWAIJ is miffed that the World Bank Director of Strategy and Operations, Western/Central African Region, Ms Elizabeth Huybens, recently announced that this coming August, another $750m will be made available to NEP in grant under a questionable leadership whose tenure expires this December.
“We hereby entreat the World Bank to tarry a bit until those currently charged with managing the affairs of NEP, particularly as regards the initial grants are cleared and contract awards and past spending concerning the earlier grants are subjected to close scrutiny by relevant enforcement agencies.
“Ahmad is presently facing prosecution for alleged breach of Anti-money laundering act, violation of public procurement law and Public Service rules at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).”
The group also declared that the failure of the Tinubu government to prosecute the REC managing director for the grievous allegations levelled against him would make them to approach the court to secure an order that would allow them to do so.
“While we call on President Tinubu to order investigation into Ahmad’s activities as head of REA by the appropriate law enforcement agencies, we also warn that failure to act, we shall be compelled to draw prosecutorial power from the 2022 decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of RAPHAEL OBIJIAKU V CHIEF JOE OBIJIAKU & 2 ORS (2022) 17 NWLR (PT. 1857) 377 at 405 Paras E- F, which empowers private citizens to institute and prosecute crimes of any kind without fiat from the Attorneys-General.
“You will recall that Ahmad’s predecessor, MS Damilola Ogunbiyi was sacked two years into by the then Minister of Power, Sale Mamman.
“The latter also ordered investigation into alleged infractions levelled at Ogunbiyi, who prior to her appointment as REA’s MD was the general manager of the Lagos State Electricity Board,” the statement added.