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Confusion rages over ownership of $50M

The EFCC has surprisingly gone quiet since it discovered huge stash of cash in a Lagos apartment, fuelling all kinds of stories.

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The stash of cash was found on a property in upmarket Ikoyi, Lagos, last Wednesday.

Acting on a tip-off, personnel of the EFCC deployed minimum force to slam open flat 7B, No. 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi.

According to the EFCC, whistle-blowers had told of a haggard looking woman who was in the habit of going in and out of the apartment at the oddest of hours; a Ghana-must-go bag perched on her head.

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Once inside the apartment, the anti-graft operatives found $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23,218,000 in raw cash, neatly arranged and concealed in cabinets.

The cabinets themselves were hidden behind wooden panels of a bedroom wardrobe.

The cash totalled a cumulative $50M and at the time of writing, no one has claimed ownership of the find.

However, the building where the cash was found, now has names attached to it.

Immediate past chairman of the PDP, Adamu Muazu, who initially denied owning the building, later released a statement saying although he owned the property, he's since sold same to developers and various occupants.

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"I acquired the land and jointly developed the property using a bank loan I obtained about nine years ago", Muazu said.

He added that; "However, all the flats have been sold to prospective buyers in order to pay back the loan. I do not own or occupy any of the apartments.

"I sold all the apartments through established estate agents. As such, I have no knowledge or interest in who purchases or rents any of the flats.

"I commend the efforts of the officials of the EFCC and the government's drive at fighting corruption", he added.

A former Managing Director, Operations, at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC),Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue was also initially linked to ownership of the cash.

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But even she has washed her hands off the stash.

Reports say Nnamdi-Ogbue who admitted to residing in one of the apartments in the building, was taken in for interrogation by EFCC operatives, Thursday, and has since been released.

Transport minister Rotimi Amaechi, has also been linked to the cash.

But when Pulse called him on Friday, Amaechi said he owns no property in Lagos and strenuously denied that the money is his.

Lere Olayinka who is a spokesperson of Ekiti Governor Ayo Fayose, was among the first set of persons to link the discovered money to Amaechi.

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According to Olayinka, the apartment where the money was found "is owned by the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.

"The house was built by Alhaji Adamu Muazu through a loan from GTBank. He could not repay the loan so GTB took over the house and allocated the penthouse to Muazu and two flats.

"Rotimi Amaechi bought two of the flats (7A and 7B). He then gave 7A to (television talkshow host) who is suspected to be his girlfriend".

Olayinka continued: "But the flat 7B where the money was found belong to Rotimi Amaechi.

"This is believed to be cash kept for 2019 elections.

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"Let's see how the cover up game goes".

In a swift reaction, Amaechi's spokesperson, David Iyofor arrived all guns blazing on Olayinka.

"Big liar. Demonic liar! Listen, you disgusting pig, Rotimi Amaechi is not connected or linked in any way whatsoever to the house or money", Iyofor tweeted at Olayinka.

He wasn't done with his rant: "Where is your proof? If you think you can link Amaechi to the House and money by tweeting this rubbish, then you need to have your head examined.

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"You better hear well before your ear sends you to prison. Lying is not playing politics. You don't play politics by tweeting outright lies".

But there's another layer to this developing saga.

According to ThisDay newspaper, the money actually belongs to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

The daily writes that the money was kept in the Ikoyi apartment for a covert operation being put together by the NIA.

ThisDay's version of events reads in part:

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"The NIA said the cash had been stashed away in the apartment by NIA for a covert operation but was shocked on Wednesday when news broke that its operation had been compromised by the acting Chairman of the EFCC Ibrahim Magu and his personnel.

Opening up on how the raid of the apartment occurred and what transpired subsequently, a security official revealed that when the EFCC officials got to Osborne Towers, they were confronted by three or four NIA operatives who showed them their ID cards and confirmed that “property” in the said apartment belonged to the NIA.

“However, they were ignored and excitable Magu and his operatives went ahead to move the cash found in the apartment and made a great show of the discovery of another cash haul.

“When the Director General of the NIA, got wind of what had happened, he immediately got in touch with Magu and informed him that the money belonged to his agency and their cover had been blown by the action of the EFCC.

“All Magu said to him was ‘okay I have heard’, and took no action to correct his mistake.

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“When Magu remained unyielding, the DG asked him to inform Mr. President that the funds belong to the NIA and were meant for an ongoing covert operation.

“We don’t know if Magu eventually reported the incident to the president, but we know that Mr. President has instructed that the funds should be returned to the the security source revealed.

Certain reports claim that the NIA has denied ownership of the money.

Director-General of the NIA, Oke, stopped short of denying ownership of the money when he told Sahara Reporters that he has a headache and can't comment on the story.

His initial response was that the money doesn't belong to the NIA as certain sections of the press had claimed.

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On Friday, Pulse drove to the Osborne towers in Ikoyi--Nigeria's newest cash apartment.

However, stern looking security personnel who have been keeping an eye on the property since the discovery, wouldn't let us get any closer or take pictures.

Pulse has also put phone calls across to Wilson Uwujaren who is the spokesperson of the EFCC and Ibrahim Magu who is the acting Chairman of the EFCC.

Both men have refused to confirm or deny the version that says the money belongs to the NIA.

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Repeated phone calls to the cellphones of both personnel of the anti-graft agency, have returned unanswered, seven hours after.

Pulse would later send a text message to Uwujaren which read as follows:

"Good day Sir. Is there truth to media reports that the $50M discovered in a Lagos apartment belong to the NIA and was being used for a sting operation?"

The text message was sent at exactly 7:59am on Friday, April 14, 2017.

At the time of filing this story, nine hours after, Uwujaren is yet to text a response our way.

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The EFCC has been on a money finding spree in recent times, thanks to a whistleblower policy launched last December by minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun.

A whistleblower is entitled to between 2.5%-5% if their snitching abilities lead to discovery of looted public funds.

There's a secure portal for whistleblowers to lodge their information.

The portal guarantees anonymity for the whistleblower.

In February of 2017, the EFCC found $9.8M hid in a bunker in Kaduna, north of Nigeria, thanks to information provided by a whistleblower.

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The cash has since been claimed by Andrew Yakubu, a former Group Managing Director of the NNPC.

Earlier in the week, the EFCC also unraveled around N250M in cash in a Lagos market and a further N448M at a shopping plaza in the nation's commercial capital.

Activities of whistleblowers may have led the EFCC to the recovery of over $250B since whistle blowing became a thing in Africa's most populous country.

Recovered monies will end up in a dedicated CBN account once legal hurdles have been scaled, government officials have said.

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