The Presidency taken strong offence at a story making the rounds that President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, was involved In a contract scam in which his nephew was defrauded to the tune of over N29 million.
In a statement, Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu said it was “improbable and outlandish publication by Punch Newspaper… (Saturday) in a dig at presidential aide Abba Kyari who was alleged to have collected a 29 million naira bribe for the awarding of a contract.”
He states further: “We wish to state with full authority that the allegation is wrong and the Chief of Staff did not have any private meetings with the person making those allegations.
“What is even more surprising is the decision by the newspaper to run the cooked up lies despite obvious loopholes in the story, such as the Bureau of Public Procurement’s denial that a major source for the story was a member of their staff. With a slew of crucial elections ahead, some politicians and their media agents appear to be working together to build pressure on the Buhari administration by wielding non-existent scandals against it.
“We equally note that the supply of 15 Hilux vehicles for the Presidency was an unlikely contract to have been awarded, as it did not exist anywhere in the 2016 and 2017 budgets.
“Checking the appropriation for 2016 and 2017, that request is not even there. How could Abba Kyari have asked for money to award a contract that did not exist anywhere at all?
“In addition to that, the amount allegedly given in bribe was also suspicious, as the office of the presidential aide had been known in the past to receive imprest of 200 million naira and above every month, with no one expected to give account.
“It was only since Abba Kyari occupied that position that things changed.
“In blunt terms, it is difficult to make a case of N29 million bribery against an official who spurned a monthly payment of N200 million to his office, money for which he didn’t need to account to anyone.
“Once again, we wish to caution against the media’s haste to publish unverified accusations against government officials simply for the sensationalism value, without journalists doing the due diligence required of them by their profession.
“The Punch was notified of the various falsehoods contained in the allegations but still went ahead to publish the weak accusations. They should be prepared to face Abba Kyari in court.”
Shehu’s statement was however silent on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s confirmation that it was investigating the alleged crime.
Below is the The Punch story:
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it has started work on a petition linking Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, to a contract scam.
The Spokesperson for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said this in a text message sent to Punch Correspondent on Friday.
The petitioner, Bako Waziri Kyari, who claimed to be a nephew to the chief of staff had said during a popular radio programme, Berekete Family, on Human Rights Radio 101.1FM in Abuja, that Kyari and Sani Ado, whom he claimed worked with the Bureau of Public Procurement, allegedly collected N29.9m from him in order to facilitate the award of a contract.
The petitioner said he had written a petition to the EFCC but the commission refused to treat it, insisting that it could not investigate the President’s aide.
In his reaction, however, the EFCC spokesperson said, “The petition by Bako Waziri is being investigated by the commission. Any serious investigation takes time and it is presumptuous to conclude that the EFCC is non-committal simply because you did not receive instant result. This is how investigations are done.”
Bako, who is from Bama in Borno State, told Berekete Family that when he lost his father, Kyari came to commiserate with the family and then promised him the contract.
He said on getting to Abuja, he met with Kyari at Caledonia Hotel, Maitama, four times.
Bako alleged that Kyari asked him to pay Ado some money to facilitate the award of the contract.
He said he approached a friend who lent him some money, adding that he also sold his properties in order to raise N29.9m which he used in facilitating the contract.
Speaking through an interpreter, he said, “Abba Kyari asked if I had a company registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission. I told him I did and so he asked me to come down to Abuja. We met at least four times at Caledonia Hotel on Gana Street, Maitama. We discussed there. The hotel should have CCTV and this can be confirmed.
“Abba Kyari collected the documents of my company. He said I would supply 15 Toyota Hilux vehicles to the Presidential Villa. He gave me an agreement to sign and I signed two documents. He collected two letterheads from me, 12 passport photos and introduced me to Sani Ado and Alhaji Ibrahim.
“He said anytime they needed money, he would let me know so that I could give the money to Sani Ado. Ado began collecting money from me to process the contract. Before depositing money into Ado’s account, I always alerted Abba Kyari and he would tell me to go ahead.
“All the money I transferred to Ado summed up to N29, 950,000. The total contract was worth N300,725,000. They promised me 30 per cent profit of the total contract which is about N94m.”
The petitioner said Ado called him later to tell him that the money had been paid.
Bako, however, said he never received the funds as Ado continued to give him flimsy excuses.
He said he got frustrated and then wrote a petition to the EFCC.
The petitioner, however, said he was disappointed by the response of the EFCC.
He added, “Some officials loyal to Abba Kyari refused to help me. I went to meet an official petitioner at Block C in the EFCC. He is very close to the acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu. The official asked me to bring the petition to him but by the time I got there, he had called Kyari to inform him of my presence.
“Abba Kyari called me on the phone to tell me that he knew I was at the EFCC.”
Bako said he quickly changed his mind and decided not to use the EFCC any longer. He, however, said friends from whom he borrowed money began to pester him.
He said a friend decided to report him to a policeman, DSP Tijjani Bulama.
The petitioner said he explained the matter to Bulama and even gave him Abba Kyari’s number to prove that he was telling the truth.
Bako said Kyari promised to return the money in a few days but never did.
He added, “The policeman threatened to make the matter public, but the following day, men of the DSS stormed Tijani’s home and arrested him.
“While in detention, the policeman under duress, called me, asking me to meet him at Eagle Square. On getting there, men of the DSS arrested me and took me to their office. The DSS men asked if we had informed anyone and we said no.
“They took our statements and Abba Kyari later came to the DSS. He, however, refused to speak to me. The DSS officials forced me to lie that I gave the policeman N250,000 to blackmail Abba Kyari but I refused. So they detained me for two weeks while the policeman was detained for a month.”
He said it was Kyari that asked the DSS to release him and promised that the matter was a family one and would be resolved internally.
The petitioner said he waited for another seven months but Kyari never paid him his money.
Bako said he decided to approach the EFCC a second time but through another official, Nura Buhari.
He added, “Nura Buhari then told me that if I wanted my petition to be attended to, I must remove Abba Kyari’s name. So, I removed Abba Kyari’s name and put only Ado.
“Bashir instructed that the investigation must not include Abba Kyari. They took my statement at Block B but moments later, Abba Kyari called me again. When I picked up, Kyari told me he was told that I was at the EFCC but I denied being there.
“All of them at the EFCC began to feel intimidated. Even Magu is afraid of touching the case file.”
Also speaking, the policeman who was detained by the DSS, described the entire incident as a case of fraud.
Tijani, who spoke amid tears, said the DSS officials arrested him in the presence of his children and harassed his entire household.
He said, “Initially I didn’t believe. I thought it was a fraudster impersonating the chief of staff. I called Ado and he said it was the chief of staff that asked him to collect the money. When I called the chief of staff, he denied it and said it was a mix up.
“The next day, I sent a text to Ado telling him that the matter would be made public if he did not repay the money. Before I knew it, armed DSS officials in 10 vehicles stormed my home in PENGASSAN Estate, Lokogoma, and arrested me. They didn’t even allow me wear my shoes. It was on March 27, 2017, there were eyewitnesses there.
“They blindfolded me. My child was even crying in the house and they even pushed the little boy to the floor. It was at that point I realised that it was the chief of staff’s handiwork. Even the IG would not send the DSS to my house. I knew that only someone as powerful as Abba Kyari could do such.”
The deputy superintendent said he was brought before the then DG, Lawal Daura.
He added, “Daura said, ‘you are the one trying to intimidate the chief of staff, you want to become a whistleblower’. When I asked if it was true that Abba Kyari duped the man, he asked me to get out of his office.”
Tijani said he was treated as a common criminal and made to sit on the bare floor.
Attempts to speak with Ado on Friday proved abortive as his telephone line indicated that it was switched off while a text message was not responded to.
Presidency source denies allegation
A presidential source, who denied the allegations levelled against the President’s Chief of Staff, said the President’s top aide would not want to engage the accuser in the media.
The source who said he did not have the authority of the Chief of Staff to speak on the matter, said, “I want you to use your discretion to determine if the story is worth publishing.
“The Chief of Staff will prefer to take up any libelous publication in court.”
Efforts made to get the spokesman for the DSS, Mr. Nnochirionye Afunanya, failed as calls made to his telephone indicated that it was switched off. A text message sent to the same line also did not deliver.
No Sani Ado in BPP – Spokesman
When contacted, the Spokesperson for the BPP, Mr. Segun Imohiosen, said the bureau did not have any member of staff with the name Sani Ado.
He said, “Thanks for reverting to the bureau before going public. Unfortunately, we don’t have any officer in the Bureau by the name Sani Ado. So, issue of collusion in procurement does not even arise.”