Three persons claiming to be the genuine whistleblowers that gave information that led to recovery of about N13billion that was stashed at Flat 7 Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos state, have dragged the Federal Government to court.
The plaintiffs- Abdulmumin Musa, Mr Stephen Sunday and Mr Bala Usman- are praying the Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain FG from paying the 5% whistle-blowing fee to any other person but themselves.
Aside FG, other defendants in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1158/2017 and dated November 22, are the Attorney General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Finance, as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The plaintiffs maintained that they were the ones that had sometime in December 2016, notified the Lagos office of the EFCC about the recovered loot which the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, subsequently claimed it kept in the Ikoyi apartment for “covert operations”. NIA’s claim led to the suspension and eventual removal of its former Director General, Amb. Ayodele Oke.
The trio said they were surprised when the EFCC announced that it was on the verge of paying 5% commission on the recovered money to another whistle-blower. Determined to get their commission, the three plaintiffs, through their lawyer, Hammart and Co. (Tafida Chambers), wrote separate letters to both the AGF and the Minister of Finance, Mr. Kemi Adeosun, accusing EFCC of attempting to short change them by bringing people that were not original whistleblowers on the Ikoyi loot.
In their petition dated August 24, which was received by office of AGF on September 8, the plaintiffs insisted that the people EFCC claimed it was relating with over the 5% commission were not the arrowhead of the whistleblowing. The petition, which they submitted to the AGF through their solicitors, read in part:
“Our clients informed us sometime in December 2016 that three (3) of them voluntarily walked into the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) at 15A Awolowo Road Ikoyi, Lagosand gave vital information that led to the recovery of over N13 billion at the Ikoyi Towers, Lagos.
“That upon subsequent visit to give a detailed information as required by the commission to raid the tower, they were told if the operation was successful, 5% of the amount recovered will be their take home within 72 hours of recovery, they were also cautioned that if the information happened to be false, then they will definitely be in trouble which the three mentioned above accepted because they were sure of their facts.
“That when the operation was carried out, it was successful but since then they have not received any commendation by the commission, let alone give any reward as stated even though the EFCC have their names and phone numbers”.
The Petitioners said rather than to do the needful, some of the EFCC staff told them that they were not the only people that supplied information on the Ikoyi Tower, though they declined to disclose identities of the other purported whistle-blowers.
The plaintiffs said they later met with the Head of EFCC operations, Alhaji Samaila Muhammed and were told on their visit that the number of whistle-blowers involved in the Ikoyi loot had increased to nine. Likewise, in another letter dated November 15, the plaintiffs drew attention of the Minister of Finance to their petition pending before the AGF, even as they prayed FG to put on hold any plan to pay the wrong whistle-blowers the 5% commission on the Ikoyi loot, until their complaint is thoroughly investigated and justice done.
“It is therefore the brief of our clients that we request you to hold on payment of the whistleblowers’ fee/entitlement until our clients’ complaints is sorted out. That considering the vital role our client played in exposing the whereabouts of the recovered money, our client cannot be sidelined or denied his entitlement, doing so will amount to injustice to our client”, their lawyer stated.
It will be recalled that another person who earlier insisted that he was the authentic whistleblower was said to have been sent to a psychiatric facility after he protested delay in the payment of the 5% commission to him. The said whistleblower who was not identified, was represented by his lawyer, Mr. Yakubu Galadima, who bemoaned that the EFCC had placed the burden of caring for the whistleblower on him in the aftermath of the discovery.
Shortly after Galadima’s outcry, FG, through the Minister of Finance said it was perfecting the process for the commission to be accordingly paid. Meanwhile, in their suit, the plaintiffs are among other things, praying the court to declare that FG represented by the AGF and the Federal Ministry of Finance, as well as the EFCC, “are bound to comply with the whistleblowers Executive Policy or whistleblowers Executive Order to pay 2.5%-5% of whistle blowing fees or percentage as issued by the Federal Government of Nigeria”.
They also want the court to declare that they actively participated and are instrumental to the whistle blowing or disclosure of information to the 1st defendant staff or officers which resulted to the 1st defendant’s recovery of the sums $43.4 million, N23.3 million and 27,800 Euros at Flat 7 Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos state”.
More so, the plaintiffs are praying the court to issue a mandatory injunction restraining the 2nd defendant (Ministry of Finance) by themselves, their agents, staff or officers from excluding or denying the plaintiff from payment of the 2.5-5% of the whistleblowing fees or percentage of the amount of the money recovered as a result of the whistleblowing or information disclosed by the plaintiff to the 1st defendant.
Meantime, no date has been fixed for hearing of the suit which is yet to be assigned to any judge. Credit: Vanguard.