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Polymer banknotes bribery saga: investigation dead on arrival (DOA)

Source: huhuonline.com
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Some top bigwigs of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have mounted an unprecedented covert counter-attack against mounting pressure by the Australian government that investigations be opened into what has become an epic scandal

over bribery allegations involving the former Central Bank Governor, (CBN) Charles Soludo and other Nigerian government officials.

Huhuonline.com previously reported that as much as $10 million was paid in kickbacks to Nigerian government officials to facilitate the contract which was awarded Securency; a subsidiary of the Reserved Bank of Australia (RBA).The CBN then, under Soludo launched the first polymer note, the N20, on a trial basis in February 2007 as part of the apex bank's currency restructuring program. In October, 2008, the CBN obtained approval from President Umaru Musa Yar'adua to convert the other lower naira denominations, N5, N10, and N50, from paper to polymer notes on grounds that it was cost-effective than the paper notes.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) task force opened up investigations following revelations that the Reserved Bank of Australia (RBA) approved the commissions-for-contract deal which involved payments of millions of dollars to the director of its African operations, Mr. Mike Harding who subsequently made payments into offshore tax haven accounts owned by senior Nigerian government officials and their proxies. The RBA has refused to explain what the payments were for, or why they were made in the first place, but huhuonline.com has learnt that the accounting firm, KPMG has been engaged to review Securency's business practices after the Nigerian government and the CBN Governor Lamido Sanusi promised to open an internal investigation into the matter.

But any hope of a probe by the Nigerian government is in the words of one source: “DOA – Dead On Arrival.” The source told Huhuonline.com that top PDP officials, including Chief Tony Anenih have exacted a commitment from President Umaru Musa Yar'adua that Nigeria will not cooperate with any such investigations as demanded by Australia. To which end, the promised internal investigation into the bribery allegations by Sanusi may have been quashed even before it was launched.

An Australian-based newspaper, The Age broke the story with reports quoting officials of Securency, the company awarded the contract to print polymer naira notes as saying they paid as much as Ten million dollars in kickbacks to top Nigerian officials for the deal to go through. Although he has denied any knowledge of the payments, explaining that such transactions were within the jurisdictional competence of the Nigerian Minting and Security Company, unfolding evidence indicate that Soludo, was directly involved in all the transactions, because as chairman of the apex bank, he was the statutory Board chairman of the Nigerian Minting and Security Company where the CBN owns 77% of the shares.

The Australian newspaper report raised explicit questions regarding Soludo's profession of ignorance about the Securency payment. Huhuonline.com has learnt from sources that besides Soludo, other top CBN officials involved in the racket included: director of currency and branch operations, Ben Lhuilu yido and the managing director of Nigerian printing and minting. Also fingered is Soludo`s special adviser on currency .The source declined to confirm or deny allegations that ex-President Obasanjo was involved, saying: “the amount of kickback involved was too small to be brought to the attention of the President.”

Asked if he was aware of any bribes being paid to Nigerian officials, Mr. Mike Harding assented and said: “it is the nature of the beast”, implying that Nigerian government officials have certain characteristics (bribery) that will remain with them, you can`t change it, you just have to put up with it.However, a Nigerian security source who elected anonymity informed our correspondent that "security agencies will not cooperate with Australians as their hands are tied".

Continuing the source said “Prof. Soludo is a card carrying member of PDP, and he is in good standing with the top echelon of the party, thus PDP led federal government is not likely to agree to such a probe”.

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