Nigerian Ambassador To USA Admits Embezzling USD$10 Miillion Dollars

By Mazi Odera
Ade Adefuye
Ade Adefuye

Mr Ade Adefuye, professor and Nigeria's ambassador to the United States, US, has admitted his role in the corruption allegation tabled before the Senate by Transform Nigeria Citizen Initiative, led by Daniel Elombah, a London-based Nigerian.

Acting on a petition written by the Transform Nigeria Citizen Initiative, over alleged misappropriation of funds by the officials of the Nigerian embassy in Washington D.C. the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs had summoned Adefuye; Gbenga Ashiru, minister of foreign affairs; Joy Ogwu, professor and Nigeria's permanent representative to the United Nations, UN; and George Obiozor, former ambassador to the US.

Adefuye, while refuting claims that the embassy under his watch squandered $27 million, disclosed that he only met $10 million in the account when he assumed office as ambassador in 2010. While explaining why part of the money was spent, the ambassador added that embassy operations in Washington D.C were poorly funded, as it was only receiving about $200,000 of its monthly entitlement of $600,000.

The Senate two weeks ago began investigating the alleged disappearance of $27 million from the sale of Nigerian property in New York.

Two former Nigeria ambassadors and the incumbent appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs in Abuja.

They are: George Obiozor (2004 to 2006); Joy Ogwu (2006 to 2007), and the incumbent Ade Adefuye, who assumed duty in March 2010.

adefuyeExplaining his role in the saga Adefuye [pictured] told TELL Magazine that "In order to meet its financial obligations, he sought and got authorisation from the ministry of foreign affairs to make up for the shortfall in the embassy recurrent expenditure from the $10 million in the embassy's accounts. This, he explained, was done pending the time the embassy's funding would have been adequately taken care of by its budgetary allocation."

However, reacting to this explanation, Us based lawyer that represented Nigeria in the sales of the properties, Mr Emeka Ugwuonye who has also been invited by the Senate to say what he knew about the transaction told that "By TELL's own miserable story, Ambassador Adefuye is a self-confessed criminal in respect of the 10 million dollars he admitted he met and spent at the Embassy. TELL did not even understand the implications of its admission. But in the corrupt agenda of the old Nigeria, of which TELL is a dying remnant, it does not matter that Adefuye might have embezzled at least 10 million dollars, as long as he pays money to TELL. What TELL admitted on behalf of the Ambassador is the classic definition of misappropriation, which is a crime. What due process did the Ambassador follow to spend the 10 million dollars? Was that not what put Bode George in jail? How come that TELL suddenly seems unable to tell that?"

A nigerian based lawyer also told that by law the entire money should have been returned to the Federation account by December 31st of the year in which the properties were sold and only the National Assembly has the right to appropriate the funds.

Asked to comment on the statement by Ministry of foreign affairs that the entire money was properly spent and accounted for, the lawyer asked; "by whom?". He added: "Not even the president can spend the money for whatever purpose without appropriation by the National Assembly."

Contacted for his reaction the author of the petition and convener of Transform Nigeria Citizens Initiative said all these side commentaries are distractions. He added people should simply allow the Senate fulfil their oversight function and not preempt the outcome of the Senate investigations.. He urged the senate Committee on Foreign Affairs not to be intimidated By adverse media reports.

Mr. Elombah had urged the Senate to investigate why the proceeds from the sale of some Nigerian government property in the U.S. between 2004 and 2007 were not accounted for.

“Available records showed that between 2004 and 2007, the Embassy of Nigeria sold four prime properties of the Nigerian Government located in Washington D.C and Maryland,” he said.

“It also commenced sale of a fifth property located in San Francisco, California.

“For the sale of those properties, the government of Nigeria retained the services of ECULAW Law Firm. Out of those sales, Nigeria realised the sum of 27 million dollars.

“All funds realised from these sales, except those set aside as fees, were remitted to the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington D.C,” the petitioner alleged.

He alleged that all the funds and transactions were duly confirmed in June 2007 by ECULAW Law firm when it met with embassy officials at the Embassy premises in Washington D.C.

He alleged that instead of remitting the proceeds to Nigeria, the funds were lodged in a Washington bank.

“M&T Bank had been the bank the embassy used for other transactions and had about three different accounts with that bank.

“It was confirmed in clear terms that their bank was holding huge deposits comprising the proceeds of the sales of these properties.

“This remained the position after Dr George Obiozor had returned to Nigeria upon completing his service in Washington.

“However, and surprisingly, the Embassy of Nigeria left that money in Washington partly because it yielded substantial monthly interests, which the embassy officials would never have to account for,” he claimed.

The petitioner further alleged that the money in the accounts, disappeared without trace in March 2012.

“This became clear when the M&T Bank was forced to close the accounts of Nigerian Embassy and to terminate all banking relations with the embassy at the beginning of 2012,” he said.

According to him, since March 2012, no explanation had been given as to the whereabouts of funds which were in the bank accounts when the incumbent assumed office.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Matthew Nwagwu, said the committee had received a petition alleging embezzlement of funds in Nigeria's Embassy in Washington.

“There is a petition before the committee on the issue. We have the petition and we are taking it on the face value.

“We are giving this opportunity to the minister and ambassador to explain what happened. It is alleged that the resources were squandered by embassy officials.

“Ours is to give you a chance to address the committee, to tell us what you know about the administration and management of the fund within your tenure from 2004 till date.

Mr Ade Adefuye