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Halliburton Scandal: Gen Gusau returned $1.4 million to UK

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Fresh details in the possession of PREMIUM TIMES reveal how the police in the U.K. arrested a former Nigerian lawmaker for allegedly distributing suspicious funds connected to the Malabu deal.

Details have emerged of how Umar Bature, a former member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, was arrested in London while distributing suspicious funds suspected to have been meant for a former Nigerian National Security Adviser (NSA), Aliyu Mohammed Gusau.

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Mr Bature, an ally of Mr Gusau, was arrested after he met Jeffrey Tesler, a British businessman previously involved in the case of international corruption known as the “Bonny Island” Halliburton scandal. Mr Tesler also doubles as a friend and ally of Mr Gusau.

The money is suspected to be among the slush funds distributed in connection with the Malabu scandal.

The new details are found in documents obtained exclusively by PREMIUM TIMES from exhibits submitted in a case filed in the United States by oil giant, ENI.

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Mr Tesler is a British citizen already implicated in the Halliburton-Bonny Island scandal regarding the bribery of Nigerian public officials, which also involved SAIPEM, a company that was until 2016 a subsidiary of ENI.

Mr Gusau, easily one of the most influential figures in Nigeria’s military intelligence circles, was head of the secret military service in Nigeria between 1988 and 1989. He later became director of national security for former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan. He also served briefly as Minister of Defence under Mr Jonathan.

Mr Bature was a member of the House of Representatives, where he represented Sokoto North/South Federal Constituency. He had earlier served in the Nigerian Armed Forces until he retired in 2003 and joined partisan politics. He is said to have become a “protegee” of Mr Gusau during his days in the Armed Forces. He is currently serving as Commissioner for Water Resources in Sokoto State.

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The Malabu scandal involved the transfer of about $1.1 billion by Shell and ENI through the Nigerian government to accounts controlled by Dan Etete, a former Nigerian oil minister.

From the former minister’s accounts, prosecutors say about half the money went to accounts of companies controlled by Aliyu Abubakar, a middleman popularly known in Nigeria as the owner of AA oil. Anti-corruption investigators and activists suspect he fronted for top officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as well of officials of Shell and ENI. He denied wrongdoing.

The Malabu transaction was authorised in 2011 by former President Goodluck Jonathan through some of his cabinet ministers and the money was payment for OPL 245, one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks.

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The oil resources of the OPL 245 license have remained undeveloped since the controversies began. ENI initiated international arbitration proceedings against Nigeria last September, alleging the government had breached its obligations by refusing to let the firm develop the license.

Fresh details seen in documents reviewed by PREMIUM TIMES have provided insights into the roles of other Nigerians in the long-running Malabu scandal.

In one of the exhibits submitted by Eni, Mr Tesler explained the role of Mr Bature in the scandal. Until now, Mr Bature’s name and alleged roles have never been reported in the controversial deal.

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On January 9, 2014, details showed that Mr Tesler went into a police station in London, handed over a bag containing the sum of £378,670 in cash, and made statements about the circumstances under which he came into possession of the money.

In summary, Mr Tesler reported that he had entered into a cooperation agreement with the government of the United States, ostensibly regarding investigations on the Halliburton scandal, thus obtaining a type of immunity in exchange for his activities as an informant.

For this reason, through his lawyers in New York, he advised the US government of his meeting, on November 15, 2013, with a man of Nigerian nationality, who introduced himself as “Umar Bature”, who had informed him that Dan Etete, former Nigerian oil minister, intended to transfer to him the sum of $2 million at a foreign exchange office in Abuja.

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Mr Bature had, therefore, asked him to provide bank details so as to credit the money to him. In response to his answer of not having an account that could be used for such purpose, Mr Bature said that the money, net of commissions for the transfer, could be collected by him in London in several tranches.

“According to Tesler, at that first meeting, he had not been told the origin of the money, nor the reason for which he was the beneficiary,” the document said.

“In the performance of the agreement entered into with the Department of Justice of the United States, he had drafted a memo summarising the content of the meeting with Bature, and had sent it to his lawyers, so that they could inform the United States legal authorities.”

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Speaking further in his account to the British police officers, Mr Tesler stated that he had not had further news of Mr Etete and the money until the evening of January 8, 2014, when he received a phone call from General Mohammed Aliyu Gusau, who informed him that within a few minutes he would receive another phone call.

“Indeed, at 7:15 p.m., Umar Bature phoned him, presenting himself as the person he met on a previous occasion and asked if they could meet so that he could give him something,” the document said.

“They made an appointment to meet at 8:00 p.m. at the Cavendish Hotel on German Street in Piccadilly, where Bature stated he was staying. He immediately informed his lawyer, who told him the instructions received from the United States to collect the money and not spend it.

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“Therefore, he went to the appointment, meeting with Bature in his room, and there received a very heavy suitcase, extracted from a case, inside which, according to Bature, there was the sum of GBP 378,000 in small bills. Bature asked him to return the following day to receive another suitcase and to discuss the commissions to be paid.

“After the meeting was finished, he immediately informed his lawyer of the events, who told him a few hours later that he would be contacted by an FBI agent. Indeed, the day after, at noon, he received a phone call from a certain John Coushad, who told him that he had already informed the police authorities of the United Kingdom and to not go to the next appointment with Bature.”

Speaking on how he met Mr Gusau, Mr Tesler explained that he had had a long relationship of continuous visits with him, meeting him whenever he came to London, which normally happened once every 4- 6 weeks, and speaking on these occasions of the political-economic events of Nigeria.

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He added that he met Mr Bature in November 2013 and January 8, 2014, adding that he had not asked questions on the origin of the money and the reasons for which Mr Etete had sent it to him so as to not place himself in danger.

When asked by the English police agent whether he knew the reason why Mr Etete had sent him the money, he said, according to details of the exhibit: “…two million is a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of money which he collected from Shell and Agip …” The document added that Mr Tesler, therefore, “links the sum of money in cash given to him by Umar Bature on behalf of Dan Etete to the price received by the latter from ENI and Shell for OPL 245.”

The documents further explained that Mr Bature had a role in the negotiation for the sale of OPL 245 because, since 2009, he has participated in meetings between Messrs Etete, Agaev, and employees of Shell. He was also serially identified as “Gusau man”.

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The next day, the document showed, Mr Bature was arrested and interrogated by an agent of the anti-money laundering team of New Scotland Yard.

During interrogation, the document said, Mr Bature admitted to having been commissioned to take the amount of $1.4 million to Mr Tesler, a friend of his “boss”.

He also reportedly admitted to having gone along with his “boss” to currency exchange offices that were legally recognised in Nigeria to check how to transfer this sum of money to the United Kingdom and, indeed, agreed on the transfer to the United Kingdom in exchange for a commission of 7.8 per cent.

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The document said that Mr Bature also confirmed that his “boss”, from whom he received the assignment, is General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, a Nigerian minister at the time. He also added that he flew to London from Dubai at the request of the General to deliver the money to Mr Tesler.

Mr Bature also claimed, according to the documents, to have handed over to Mr Tesler, who he had already met previously several times, the sum of GBP 374,000, as the first tranche of a total sum of 1.3 million allocated to him. He added that he received the money, in turn, from a Nigerian citizen, who was also arrested, named Gabriel Oziegbe.

“In actual fact, the money given by Tesler and seized by the British authorities amounted to GBP 378,670. Also, Gabriel Oziegbe was interrogated by the English police and confirmed Bature’s story. A considerable further amount of money in cash, for a total amount of $50,000 and GBP 82,173, was seized from him,” the document reads in part.

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“The general Aliyu Mohammed, to whom Bature refers, is certainly the General Aliyu Mohamed Gusau, given that he held a variety of positions in the Nigerian Armed Forces up to the highest levels of the secret services of that country, and was then national security adviser to two presidents of the republic.

“Gusau has been a friend of Tesler for years, as stated by the latter; it was Gusau who told Tesler in advance, on the same day, about Bature’s telephone call pre-announcing the delivery of the money. Bature was already indicated in 2009 as “a man of Gusau” by Copleston, who, by collecting information on the field in Nigeria on behalf of Shell on the strength of his previous experience as an MI6 agent, probably came to know about the relationship between the two, dating back to their common past of belonging to the Nigerian Armed Forces.”

The document claimed that the revelation reflects the statements of Ednan Agaev, an ex-Russian diplomat, regarding the fact that in relation to the deal of OPL 245, “Gusau was expecting a commission from Etete”. The revelation also finds confirmation in the statements made to the investigators by Jonathan Benton, the former head of the Corruption Unit of the Metropolitan Police of London, which had investigated the OPL 245 Malabu saga, it added.

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Messrs Etete and Gusau are believed to be close allies. In one of his disclosures in 2019, Mr Agaev claimed that he was introduced to Mr Etete by Mr Gusau in 2008.

When contacted Thursday night, Mr Bature told PREMIUM TIMES he had nothing to say about the matter.

Mr Gusau, on his part, did not return telephone calls and text messages seeking comments from him.

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In March, PREMIUM TIMES reported how an Italian court in Milan acquitted Shell, Eni and their managers in the long-drawn Malabu trial. But prosecutors reportedly lodged appeals against the verdict. An Italian newspaper quoted a Milan prosecutor as describing the acquittal judgment as “thin and illogical”.

Anti-corruption groups monitoring the case in Nigeria and across Europe, including the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA), Corner House and Re: Common, also criticised the acquittal judgement which they said distorted and ignored vital evidence.

“Our own analysis suggests that the Milan judgment was deeply flawed,” Lanre Suraj, chair of HEDA, was quoted as saying in a joint statement in August.

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Nigeria

ANAMBRA GUBER: ‘UMUNNA REVOLUTION’ , WHY WE ALL NEED TO KEY INTO THE MOVEMENT

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TEXT OF SPEECH DELIVERED BY DR HARRIS CHUMA ODILI ON THE MEDIA UNVEIL OF ‘UMUNNA REVOLUTION’, A DEMOCRATIC MODEL FOR INCLUSIVENESS AND WELL-BEING OF MAJORITY OF CITIZENS

All Protocols observed.

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Gentlemen of the Press, I wish to heartily welcome you to this press conference, inspired by the need to offer the people of Anambra a veritable option in the quest to make life more meaningful for a greater majority of our people.

As a concerned citizen of the state, I have been inundated with so many disturbing thoughts about the welfare of the people. I have been bugged by one recurring question: “If democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people, why does it benefit just a handful of the citizens?”

When we look around us, we see poverty written on the faces of the citizens, which resulted from factors that are above their control. Without citing statististics from renowned bodies in the world, there is no doubt that the present era, constitutes one of the worst times for our people ever. Yet, democracy has been promoted as the solution for our problems.

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Is democracy overrated? I will say a big NO. Democracy is still the way forward but governance must match democratic ethics to make it worthwhile for the people. I have a strong conviction that every society must evolve a system that works for it and adapt it for the wellbeing and harmony of her people.
In Nigeria today, it appears the beauty of democracy starts and ends at the Government Houses.

 

At the Federal level, we have that feeling when we see people who are privileged to visit Aso Rock Villa. While in our state, it comes with people’s ability to hobnob at Agu Awka, our Government House. But it is not supposed to be so. Every government in place must ensure that it rubs off POSITIVELY on the lives of majority, if not all of the citizens.

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While our findings indicate that this style, where a few benefit is not entirely intentional, it is obvious that governments can do more by evolving a model that brings inclusiveness in the dividends of democracy.

As Ndi Igbo, we understand the concept of Umunna and how it works. Short of the nuclear family as influenced by the Western World, Umunna in our society is the fabric on which every Igbo clan is built on, which is why the idea of ‘Umunna Revolution’, which we have gathered here today to talk about, is unique. Umunna is vital in fostering unity amongst the people, considering the fact that it is a group of people bound by one destiny, who by every stretch of imagination understands what their concerns and needs are.

Umunna Revolution therefore, not only aims at bringing governance down to the grassroots but down to every family, so that the geese and the ganders can be equally treated. This is different from a situation where one comes to a certain town and you notice that all the benefits usually accrue to one family or group. This is anti-people and breeds resentment and division as we have been witnessing so far.

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The greatest challenge of this model, I must confess is that it needs an accurate data to be functional, and that is where we have excelled because as I speak with you about 1.6million people have been captured for this which in our view, will be beneficial to the people. This concept will also act as the panacea for the growing insecurity in our land, because when governance touches every fabric of the society, agitations tend to go and like I always tell people, we will kill insecurity when we reduce the number of people wallowing in misery in our midst. If we can reduce misery to 5% with Umunna Revolution in one year, be rest assured that crime will also reduce by the same margin.

In essence this is where the INCOMING government of the African Democratic Congress, ADC has excelled. To be able to solve the problems of the people, you must be able to understand them and apply solutions that will transform their lives. While people say devolve power to the states or regions, ADC in Anambra is saying devolve governance to Umunna.
We are optimistic that by the time it begins to yield the positive results in Anambra State, a lot more states will be forced to replicate this model in their various states and beyond.

Gentlemen of the Press, I thank you for being here and for your attention and urge you to preach the word that something good is coming to the people through ADC. Something good is coming through Akachukwu Sullivan Nwankpo.

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Thank you!

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