Former Senator representing Delta North Senatorial District in the Senate Arm of the National Assembly and Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Most Distinguished Senator Peter Onyelukachukwu Nwaoboshi (SPON), our Dynamic Leader, the Oracle turned Miracle of Delta Politics was set free by the Supreme Court on July 1, Delta APC stalwart, AFTER one year following a court order resulting from his illegal arrest and arraignment over a billion-naira loan deal. In this interview with Grassroots Publishers online ,the former Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs opens up on the alleged brains behind his ordeal and his plans to bounce back into political reckoning.
Could you narrate the issues that led to your incarceration for a little over one year?
The genesis of the whole issue is making sure that I did not participate in the last February general election and also to dent my political image otherwise like the Supreme Court said, a company took a loan, I’m not a signatory to the account and then it now looks as if I once worked in that company and that I’m guilty of diversion of loan. There’s no law as diversion of loan in any of our legal books, there’s nothing called diversion of loan. And that is what the supreme court has said. There’s no such law. But more importantly, they took me to the Federal High Court. All efforts to compromise the judge at the Federal High Court failed. They did everything. But the man refused. That he would not be compromised and that justice must be done in this matter. Even the judge who was used in trying to compromise the judge who declared me innocent at the federal high court. At the right time, I’ll call his name. Because we must clean our judiciary. If you go to the prison you would see innocent Nigerians that are suffering; some people have been there for ten years awaiting trial. Some people are just there because they don’t have money. They can’t even hire lawyers. And some judges and some people will just take joy in dealing with innocent people, especially the poor. However, I got justice based on the integrity of the judge who handled the case at the Federal High Court and was declared innocent. They proceeded to the Court of Appeal still with Paris Club money that was at hand at that time. And they went, compromised some of the justices because you can not, there’s no judge who will say; I’m a lawyer with about thirty-three (33) years’ experience. I practice Law, I hold a masters degree in Law so I should be able to know my bounds. I didn’t sign a cheque, I didn’t sign an agreement, I’m not a director, I’m not a shareholder of the company, you said that I’m the alter ego. The managing director of the company is there alive, the directors of the company they’re there, they’re alive, none of them were invited. None of them was questioned . EFCC did not even visit the factory to obtain evidence. NEXIM Bank witness that they called, it’s there in the records, said that we gave this company, he didn’t say what they gave me. That we gave this company a loan of one point two billion (N1.2bn) and that they followed all the procedures and that the loan was legally granted to the company. That is their witness, not my witness, their own witness and that as he’s testifying that the company has paid the capital of (N1.2bn) that they borrowed and that as he’s giving evidence that the company has paid seven hundred million (N700m) as interest. And that the company has four months left for the tenure of the loan which is five years and what is left for them is twenty-four million (N24m) and they went further to say do you think they will pay, and they said they can pay it. They are our good customers. We did not bring any case against them. This is the evidence of NEXIM Bank. A loan that is legally obtained? My dear brother and gentlemen, money laundering is money acquired from an illegal source. And then you try to launder it like somebody who goes, if your shirt or dress is dirty, to the laundry and then you clean it up, wash it. That is what is called money laundering. Not money got from a legal source. And there’s no way a judge will say he does not understand the word: money laundering. A company that I am not a shareholder, you said that I’m the alter ego of the company. Just because one of the Justices was promised appointment to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. And so he decided to sacrifice me and to convince the other people around the judgment. There’s a lot of time. We’re in this country. And because of the Paris Club money. Why I’m speaking today is because we have to clean up our judicial system, we have to clean up whatever system we’re having in this country. And then you put me in prison and nobody said I ate money. Even the so-called petition they sent from Kpokpogri, never mentioned anything about money laundering in his evidence, all he said before the court, you can go and search it, he was talking about the Guinea House being undervalued. That’s all his evidence, Delta state government undervalued the sale of Guinea House…. and for record purposes, it is better we put the records clear when we talk. The process of the sale of Guinea House was started and the companies that bought it, the Delta state government, sold it for five hundred million naira (N500m). The company now paid fifty million (N50m). When the company paid fifty million, they couldn’t pay the balance. So His Excellency, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan now took the matter back to the State Executive Council and it revoked the sale of Guinea House and decided that they should now put it for public advertisement. We bided. The company bided. The reserve price for the house was seven hundred and twenty million. (N720m) an increase of two hundred and twenty million (N220m) from the original sale. Akpeki was the Commissioner for Housing. We now proceeded and bided. Bided for the house at eight hundred and five million naira (N805m). While Costain bided seven hundred million naira (N700m). Costain is an international company that everybody knows. Costain bided for that house for N700m, we bided for N805m. And then the Delta state government decided to sell it to our company. After that the company was given six months to pay for the bid. Within the course of the process, we had a contract. That is, Suiming International had a contract of N1.5bn from the Delta state government and Suiming approached NEXIM Bank and said please can you give us a loan to enable us to execute this contract. I said if you think the period NEXIM approved the loan and the time the money was released by the bank, following all their process. In the meantime, NEXIM Bank sent in their valuers to value the Suiming Company and valued it at four point five million (N4.5m) with a foresale of three point two billion (N3.2bn) foresale is assuming you’re selling it right now without following all the due process because it was valued at N3.2bn by NEXIM external valuers. And that was the security we offered the NEXIM. We said okay you take it if we’re not able to meet the loan time. It was plain. So in between the time NEXIM Bank was now going to release the money, the original agreement was that NEXIM Bank was to pay directly to the manufacturers in China. Not to us. But NEXIM Bank was not able to raise the foreign exchange that was required and so we went back to NEXIM Bank and said please this company can not continue to wait. The contract that they have with Delta state government is for one year. If you can not raise the foreign exchange, give the company the money. The company will source their own foreign exchange. And NEXIM Bank wrote back to Suiming and said come and take your money. We’ll give you the money, whatever you want to do with the money but you must pay us our own. A sister company that was importing pay loader, grader, construction equipment had their money already there in China, we said please because of the time we have with Delta state government, can you please help us to pay for this thirty percent because he was paying thirty percent. Go and ask anybody doing business in China. If you want them to manufacture something for you, you must pay thirty percent. They now paid the three hundred and thirty two million (N332m) they now paid thirty percent to enable the China company to manufacture while they were waiting for the release of the fund from NEXIM Bank. So when the money was released by NEXIM Bank, Suiming said we have your money now, where do we pay? They said instead of transferring it to our account, why don’t you pay straight to Delta state? And give us your receipt for the payment of the money into Delta state government account. That is the full story. So when the money was released, they paid the Delta state government and gave us the receipts and handed over the money and that was what they said is money laundering. There’s no other thing. That is the story of what they said is money laundering. And that is why I, Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a former commissioner, a former special adviser, a former Chairman of PDP, a former director of… Bank, a former Chairman of Raw Materials & Research Development Council (RMRDC) was dumped into prison for one year and six days.
Senator, do you feel bitter about this experience?
How can I not feel bitter? I’m very very bitter. I’m bitter. Why? What have I done? Because you just don’t want me not to be in circulation? If you think you’re a man and there’s election, meet me in the field. I came from the scratch to what I am today. We formed PDP in Delta state in my chambers in Asaba here. That is the very first secretariat of PDP in Delta state. James Ibori is there. I was the first state secretary of PDP. I was the engine here in Asaba. The state chairman was in Warri. Our governorship candidate Chief Ibori was in Warri. Everybody was in Warri. I was the man here receiving the bullets in Asaba. And then the people, a structure that I built from scratch. For your information and for record purposes, when Okowa contested as governor, apart from what I did for him, the history is there. I approached Okowa when he was contesting, I said, I want to bring the whole people from Delta North together. I said whoever has annoyed you or you have a quarrel with, forget it, let us unite, you stoop to conquer. And who was that person? He told me it was Ned Nwoko. I went to Ned Nwoko’s house and told Ned that the problem between you and Okowa, I want to settle it. He stated his own side of the issue to me. And I said, don’t worry. When I came back to Asaba, I met Okowa in his house in GRA in Asaba. And I told him the same thing. And I said I want us to go to Ned’s house. He resisted it. I said, no, you must listen to my advice. Eventually, he agreed. I told him what I said today. I called Ned and told him that I’m bringing Okowa to him.He said it’s not possible. I said, I’m coming with him. I drove with Okowa from his house to Ned’s house and brokered peace between the two of them. I brokered peace.I was the man who brokered peace between the two of them. So, if you say, bitter, I’m not only bitter, I am very, very bitter.
Because I was innocent. Assuming it’s an offence I committed. I can understand. But thank God, I’ve been vindicated by the Supreme Court..
But Sir, there’s this perception among Nigerians that when very wealthy Nigerians get into problems with the law, they usually come out scot-free. Is this not the same case that has played out in your case?
Ans: Well, but you have seen my case. It is not the case. It’s a question of you can go and read the law. I have given you the genesis. Did anybody tell you I took government money? Did anybody tell you that I duped him? Did anybody say that he made a report against me? Even the Kpokpogri petition did not say anything about money laundering. He said that the Guinea House was undervalued. That’s what he said. He didn’t say anything. Did anybody say that he assumed he stole money? Loan. My brother, it’s loan. Guaranteed. over 300% guarantee was given for the loan.The factory is still there. Doing very well. Doing very, very well. Do you know what? Before this judgement, go and look at EFCC website. They put the factory for sale. Before this judgement of the 7th, about two months, a month before it, they put the factory for sale in their website. They wanted to sell the factory. When they were supposed to be waiting for the Supreme Court judgment, it took my lawyers to threaten EFCC, that we are going to start contempt proceedings, before they ran away. Go and check EFCC’s website. They wanted to sell the factory before the judgment.
Sir, it would seem as if there was an orchestrated plan to put you out of circulation
Yes, that’s what I’m saying.
Who could this… Are they not your a political associates or what?
It’s not hidden. I have said it. Ned Nwoko is the main man. Himself and Malami. Malami’s SA, on the 2nd of July, called me on the phone and apologised to me.I have it in this phone. I have it here.
Sir, you were not allowed to participate in the last election. Your image has also been dented. Now you’re back. What next?
My brother. All I know is that I am in the tribunal. And I will not go more than that. Because I am a lawyer. The facts I am putting on the ground are undeniable facts. First, they wanted to assassinate me. They came to my house to assassinate me. I escaped by 2 minutes. I escaped. They took me to the Code of Conduct. Everything, they did everything through the Code of Conduct Bureau. The Attorney General’s office under Malami charged me at the Code of Conduct Bureau Tribunal. Because they looked for every opportunity to get at me, they could not reach me. So they went and charged me there. The chairman CCB, said that they don’t have the power. Told the attorney general’s office that they don’t have the power to bring me before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Take the case back to the Code of Conduct Bureau. Let the Code of Conduct Bureau bring him before us.
Did you hear the case? I was already charged. The law is clear that it is only the Code of Conduct Bureau that can bring you before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. But because they have done everything, they couldn’t get at me. The Attorney general’s office now decided to take me to the Code of Conduct Bureau. And the Code of Conduct Tribunal said no. The Attorney general’s office doesn’t have power to bring me before the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Let the Code of Conduct Bureau investigate it and bring him before us. Did you hear of it again? So they have done everything. They tried to blackmail me, prosecute me. Say everything they want to say. I remain committed to the fact that I have done nothing. My house and businesses in Asaba were sealed, everything! I went to court. The High Court Judge said that he’s surprised that the Attorney General’s office will go to the extent of pursuing an innocent person.
Sir, it would seem that you and Chief James Ibori and others have been sidelined in PDP politics of Delta state?
Q: There is no gain saying the fact that the people who did this are the people in PDP.But I will not go to this. I want, I’m on camera. I want when I speak, I challenge whoever is there to go to court. I don’t mince. I am not hiding and I say it before the camera. And if they want to go too far, I will open up more. Of course, I will open up more. I’ve told you, I’ve seen it. That judge will never go to the Supreme Court, because if he goes to, I will write a petition. I will appear. Because I have facts on me. And every day, I get more facts on this thing. What I’m saying is that all the plans that they did and everything, I know the people I call. I know everybody. One of the reasons why these things were done was they don’t want me to participate in the election.
That is the main thing. There’s no other thing about that. But I’m not going to go to the extent of saying outside the facts that can go before the whole world and say this is what was done. Because, my dear, I wish that Buruji, the late Buruji was alive, he would have said more. All the plans. How he had to intervene at a material point. I said I’m going to call him. You imagine. Let me tell you. The day they gave the judgment, I think they finished the judgment on the 1st of July. A Judge in Enugu Federal High Court gave an injunction sealing all my properties, my bank accounts in an ex-parte application. I don’t know whether you understand this. They gave a judgment, the Judge, a Federal High Court judge, gave an ex-parte order. Sealed all my bank accounts. Sealed all my company’s accounts. Sealed all my lands. Everything I have in the world. They went on this…. Any company, anything that is linked to me, linked to my children, linked to everything. He gave an ex-parte order in Enugu, for matters that the locus is in Asaba, Delta state. They just gave the judgment in Enugu. On the grounds that about 15 years ago, there was a company that took out a loan and I, as a director, guaranteed the loan. So, after more than 15 years, I was the director of that company, and the loan had gone far. And so, they should give an ex-parte order. In Enugu Justice Buba gave an ex-parte order against me, against my property. And the next day, after giving that ex-parte order, he transferred the case to Federal High Court, Asaba on the grounds of territorial jurisdiction. If you have no territorial jurisdiction, why do you have the jurisdiction to give an order for all issues that happened in Delta state? Every transaction, everything, was done in Delta. Why did they go and file the case at the Federal High Court in Enugu? And then you gave the ex-parte order in Enugu. And then after giving the ex-parte order, he transferred the case to Asaba Federal High Court. I’m just asking. Can you really understand? I’m calling names. He gave the ex-parte order in the Federal High Court in Enugu. And then, you say you are transferring the case. On territorial jurisdiction. And you know, when you give an ex-parte order. Before they will manage the process and bring it to Asaba and do everything they will do for the case to come. Because with all these things, time is running out. The elections will have been over. I have to know through my lawyers. Now we went to AMCOM and we said AMCOM, Why this, this, this, this? Well that’s a story. However, we were not able. We came to the Federal High Court. They filed an application in the Federal High Court, Asaba here. And got AMCOM to file. And then AMCOM now came. And said they want to settle with us. That they want a settlement with us. That they are not ready to continue with the action. You can understand the point I’m making. And that’s because all they wanted was to incapacitate me financially, incapacitate me in everywhere, block all my accounts. Block everything I have so that I will not be able to participate in the election.
Sir, you talked about the need to rid the judiciary of corruption as a lawyer what would your advice to the Federal Government be?
You know what I’m going to do? I’m waiting for the Supreme Court. Because even though they have made what you call some pronouncements on the judgment. Where they freed me and my companies of not being involved in money laundering. The two companies also went to the Supreme Court. I’m just waiting for them. I am going to sell that property. We are going to sell that property. It’s a 12-storey building. It’s the tallest building in Apapa. We are going to sell it. We are going to use it to establish a foundation to fight injustice in Nigeria’s judicial system. I have already finished my discussion with the directors of the company. That is my contribution to this. We are going to sell it. Before I went, I had this calculation. They have offered N5 billion for the property. And we know by now, the value is higher. We are going to sell it. We are going to name certain people who are involved in this thing. We are going to give them status and name them in front of that. I have written this thing. We are going to sell it. And make it as my contribution to Nigerian society to fight injustice in Nigeria.
Senator sir, it’s a foundation. This is supposed to be altruistic. And you are putting so much of your hard-earned money into that. Why, sir?
My friend, if I, at this level, can be dealt with like this, what do you imagine is the fate of the masses? I was in prison in Kirikiri. I had discussions with so many young men. Some can’t even feed. You need to see the food they are eating. Some are living not even better than dogs. Managing their life. When I came to Kirikiri prison, there was a boy. He came to me. I didn’t know who the boy was. I was interviewing him. I said, what is your offense? He said that he had an affair with a girlfriend. And because the boy is from a poor home, he didn’t know what to do. They took him to court and gave him life imprisonment. They said it was rape. The boy is in Kirikiri. And said it was rape…life imprisonment. That he had an affair with his own girlfriend. And then they dumped him there. Of course, I’m sure you know what that means. They were able to get judgement and sent him to prison. Can you imagine that. The boy has no choice but to stay there in jail.
Many say today’s politics is filled with bitterness and witch-hunt. Was that the spirit at the conception of PDP in Delta state at the return of politics in 1999?
That was not that. You see when you talk about PDP in Delta, we came in as friends. We meet together. I joined politics in 1977. Immediately I completed my GCE A levels. but there was nobody to fund my education even when I got admission into university. I got into university on the first attempt in 1977. It was that frustration that led me into joining UPN. I was the first batch of UPN in Bendel state. We didn’t see politics as bitterness. You go to contest, you even drink with people from another political party. This one will say I’ll beat you in the election tomorrow, you’ll see. You people are still drinking, you’re enjoying, you’re eating. Alvan Ikoku contested against his son and his son defeated him. He didn’t drive him away. He didn’t. When we came in 1999, we were friends. Let me tell you, we sat down to decide positions. You will be the chairman, James Manager and Oritsejafor were contesting for the chairmanship position. Oritsejafor stepped down and Senator James Manager became chairman, and former minister Agbovo was running as state secretary. He had to step down. I won him, he left the party. And so, it was a family affair. We came together and said Ibori because you are the richest among us. He had more money. He was rich. We knew that none of us can stand his financial muscle And so we all agreed at Ibusa community. And all of us young men, as far as we were concerned, it was going to be him (James Ibori). He brought his money. I’m not an ingrate. People will be talking down on Ibori today because of ingratitude. None of us had money. Money to go for an election. Ibori was the only man who had money. Real money to go for the election. And he was virtually funding the party. I will say ninety-nine percent of the money we spent was from Ibori. I speak as the then state PDP secretary. Even the contact we used to dislodge so many people, even the electronics system, all the equipment we manned was in my chambers. All of them were done by Ibori. So if you start sowing ingratitude. My dear, the former governor Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, had one small…thing called a private clinic in Agbor there. That’s what he had. And Ibori came, brought his money, I’m not saying it. The account is there, everybody knows it . And we were in Godon Hotel Ibusa, all of us then. Who was paying? It was Ibori. That was how all of us won the election he summoned us together. You will be commissioner. We’ll tell Ibori no, there’s nobody. When Chief Eweribo was betrayed by Okowa, Okowa was already tipped by our group to be the Deputy Governor to Ibori in our caucus. I’m saying some historical facts. They were the GDM I came from the DPN. I was deputy state chairman of the DPN. And Ibori wanted to make sure that the man who’s going to take over from him was also going to be a GDM man. And because he had the money, we all deferred to him. It was a local government council election that was conducted in Ika, and our candidate Barrister Ojogu. He was brought by Chief Eweribo. I’ll say that the old man was our father, he is like a spiritual leader to us in the struggle,he is a fatherly figure for us. So we brought in Ojogu. We went to the election, we thought we were together, from nowhere Okowa went and sponsored somebody and Ojogu lost. Everybody in the state was aghast. How? What happened? And the old man swore that Okowa will not be Deputy Governor to Ibori. That was how Okowa was dropped. And then when Ibori won, the man swore that Okowa would not be commissioner. You know these are people from the Awolowo era. These people want 99.9 loyalty. Ibori disobeyed the man and appointed Okowa Commissioner. It took us more than a month of begging him before Ibori could have the courage to face him (Eweribo) and beg for Okowa to become commissioner. These are facts. I have witnesses. But Ibori did it because he was one of us. All of us were working together and he felt that there was no reason why he should not compensate him for being a member of the group. If Ibori had not appointed him commissioner, he wouldn’t have been here..did he have the money at that time? It is Ibori who used his money for us to be where we are today. The same man who did his bit, made all of us commissioners, worked for you to be secretary to the government, I was the person who went to the prison to try to mellow Ibori down on Okowa being the governor, Ibori told me three times in prison, He said it’s either Okowa or nobody. That was how we came back and I told everybody that our leader is saying it’s Okowa or nobody. It is in my house that the last meeting of the Delta North met and we voted. Of course, the voting was done, we already knew who was going to win. The whole Delta North adopted Okowa. It’s in my house in Asaba. So if a man who helped us, I was a lawyer, I was a practicing lawyer in Asaba and the man was able to put his resources, connections at our disposal, and afterwards made some of us commissioners, he made some special advisers, he made you this, he made you that, from Ministry of Agriculture to Ministry of Water Resources, from Ministry of Water Resources, from there he fought and you became a secretary to the government, and he supported you to be governor and you say that man is nothing. Life will judge you!
Sir, your party the APC lost to the PDP in the last Delta state gubernatorial elections…..
And: They didn’t lose. INEC announced that they lost. A party that has two senators can not lose an election. I’m a practical politician. The issue is being contested. However, I am not saying. Get my point clear. His Excellency Sheriff. I don’t have anything against him. He was a very respectful young man. Let me make my point clear. I don’t have any quarrels with him. The only thing is that we do not belong to the same political party.And from what I was told and what they said to me when I came out of the prison I don’t believe my party lost the election. It’s now left for the judiciary to decide whether he won the election or not. I want to make that point clear. I don’t have any problem with all these younger ones who came. I want to make that point clear. And there are many of them who are my friends. There are many of them who have been calling me. There are many of them while in the prison who call me from time to time, praying for me. Very many and very many of the people they think that are their friends, they think they’re my enemies. They were calling me. Some of them even were offering to come and visit me. Because politics is not a do or die. As in that’s the truth about the matter. Politics is not a do or die affair. I just want to make that clear.
What is the fate of APC in Delta state? I mean going forward?
Like I said I’m at the tribunal and we’ll wait for the outcome. The only thing I know is that APC has at its head, Ahmed Tinubu, who is a practical first class politician.He understands the rudiments of politics in Nigeria. And whatever may be the shortcomings in any party or any part of the country, he knows how to remedy it. We’re not like in the Buhari era. Now we have a first class politician, a seasoned grass rooter who understands politics. He smells it. He knows when something is happening. You don’t need to tell him. He can smell it. He’s now the leader of the party in the country and so if there’s any problem in APC Delta state, he knows how to put it together and solve it. And he’s been around. So, in any case we also have leadership in the state in the shape of Senator Omo-Agege who was much a junior boy when I was serving in ibori’s administration in 1999. But today he was a Deputy Senate President, and leader of Delta APC l have to be loyal to his leadership. That does not mean I don’t have a right to tell him that I don’t agree with him. But today, he’s the leader of the party in the state. But if another leader emerges, and he doesn’t want to obey, I’ll tell him off. That when he was the leader, even those of us who are older than him gave him all the support for him to succeed as leader. And so I don’t see myself in any way trying to struggle anything with him. Throughout my incarceration, he was there for me. He was visiting me. He was giving me words of encouragement, and you’ll also know that he was campaigning for me throughout the period. So I can not come out now and say, who’s he? That is why I query some people who are saying who is Ibori today? Because you can not after somebody has built you, made you to get to the level to which you can now become a governor, made you to the level where you can now run for vice-presidential candidate when you were nobody. You were just a practicing medical officer, with one room or clinic in Agbor there and the man who brought you up. I’m older than Ibori in age. But I call him my leader. That is how I’ve been trained. That is how we are trained in the UPN. I’m an awoist. We’re trained that you have to be loyal.