AlphaBeta: The revolt against Tinubu
For Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Lagos State governor and a national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), these are certainly not the best of times. The politician popularly called Jagaban, a chieftaincy title of the Borgu Kingdom of Niger State which he holds, is visibly worried, agitated and appeared quite unsure of what the future holds. Tinubu is currently fighting what may be the battle of his political life.
On Thursday, October 8, 2020, Dapo Apara, a Nigerian chartered accountant, accused Tinubu, a consulting firm, Alpha-Beta, and a former commissioner in the state, Akin Doherty, of money laundering, fraud, tax evasion, and sundry corrupt practices.
Apara, in writ of summons deposed to at a Lagos high court, claimed that Tinubu and Alpha-Beta reneged on certain agreements reached in the past about the management and con¬trol of the consulting firm.
Alpha-Beta is a consulting firm handling the computation, tracking and reconciliation of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in Lagos State in return for a commission.
Apara, who claims to own 30 per cent stake in the company, alleged that Tinubu “has directed and dictated the affairs” of the company by diverting assets to himself at his (Apara) detriment.
Apara claimed that apart from owning 30 per cent stake in the company, other stakeholders are Michael Ogunmola, trading under the name and style Mono Consulting (40%); Tunde Badejo, trading under the name and style Ebo Consult (15%); and again, Tunde Badejo, trading under the name and style Intergrev Services (15%.
He also claimed that the company was being used for “massive corruption purposes including tax evasion, bribery of government officials, diversion of funds” and money laundering.
The 40-page writ of summons, sighted by Sunday Independent was issued by Apara's lawyer, Tade Ipadeola.
Details of the claims include an order compelling an account of all sums due to Apara from 2010 till date; an order tracing all funds and assets due to him from the inception of the company to date; an order of specific performance of certain clauses of the partnership agreement that created the company by extant partners; an order for payment to the claimants by the defendants, all sums adjudged to be due to him on the submission of the accounts; and payment of 10% interest on the sums adjudged to be due to him.
The first, second and third defendants, according to the writ, include Alpha-beta Consulting, Tinubu and Doherty, respectively.
Tinubu was Lagos governor between 1999 and 2007 while Doherty served in different capacities in Tinubu's government, notably as commissioner for finance be-tween 2005 and 2007.
Apara claimed that sometime in 2000, he solely conceived, prepared and presented a proposal to the Lagos State Government on providing consultancy services using his firm, Infiniti Systems Enterprises, with respect to using computerisation to track and reconcile the IGR of the state.
Following the presentation of his proposal to the Lagos State Government, Apara claimed that Tinubu, who was at the time the governor of Lagos State, demanded that 70% equity interest in the project be assigned to a certain Olumide Ogunmola before he will approve the project.
Apara said he then met the said Ogunmola, who he had never met before, and it was agreed that a limited liability company be incorporated in which Apara will hold 30% shares while Ogunmola and his partners will hold 70% of the shares of the company.
Alpha Beta Consulting Limited was incorporated in 2002 with the shareholding ratio that shows that 30% was allocated to him (Apara), 40% for Ogunmola, and 30% for Adegboyega Oyetola.
It is uncertain if the said Oyetola is the incumbent governor of Osun State, a close ally of Tinubu.
Apara said that upon the commencement of business operations, Tinubu directed that the 30% shareholding of Oyetola be transferred to one Tunde Badejo and this was done.
He added that although he was a signatory to all the bank accounts of the company, payments from the bank accounts required only two signatories which was mostly handled between the other two partners, Messrs. Ogunmola and Badejo.
After the incorporation of Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd in 2002, Apara said it was structured according to the dictates of Tinubu, in his official capacity as the governor of Lagos State.
Tinubu thereafter approved that Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd be awarded consultancy contract for the assessment and collection on behalf of the Lagos State Government, all taxes and IGR due and payable to the state at a 10% consultancy fee (subject to a benchmark which varies from time to time).
He noted further that due to the technology deployed by him, the IGR of the state grew from a base of about N10 billion in 2002 to over N300 billion in 2019.
In 2010 or thereabouts, he alleged, Tinubu directed that the incorporation structure of the Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd be changed from a Limited Liability Company to Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) under a newly promulgated law of the Lagos State Government.
Apara said Tinubu explained to him that the purpose was to further shield his (Tinubu's) involvement in Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd from public scrutiny. This was done in 2010.
Apara claimed that Tinubu thereafter directed that Ogunmola be designated as Managing Partner of Alpha Beta Consulting LLP, while he was designated as Deputy Managing Partner. He ex¬plained further that in 2014, Tinubu directed that Ogunmola should cease being the Managing Partner and he (Apara) then became the Managing Partner with access to review the financial records.
However, things took a dramatic turn sometime in 2016 when Tinubu allegedly told him he had received feedback that he (Apara) was reviewing past financial records of the company and he was displeased with this action.
He claimed Tinubu therefore announced that he intends to bring Doherty into the management of the company as Managing Director to take over the financial management of the company, while he (Apara) should revert to his former role as Deputy Managing Director and not get involved in the company's financial affairs.
“The 2nd Defendant (Tinubu) also warned the claimant not to even think of exposing his involvement in the financial affairs of the 1st Defendant to the EFCC as the then Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, will always protect him (the 2nd Defendant),” Apara said in the writ.
“The 2nd Defendant (Tinubu) also threatened to use the agencies of the Lagos State Government such as the Lagos State Internal Revenue service (LlRS) and the Lagos State Building Control Agency to harass and seize the assets of the claimant if the claimant ever betrayed him.”
Apara said he disagreed with the Tinubu's request that he should revert to the role of a deputy.
“Instead the claimant agreed with the 2nd Defendant that he will transition to a consultant to the 1st Defendant to manage the technology and get remunerated on a monthly basis for this task,” he claimed.
“Thereafter, the 3rd Defendant was brought to the office premises of the 1st Defendant by Mr. Badejo, a partner, and introduced to the staff as the new “Managing Director” of the 1st Defendant.
“Thereafter, Mr. Badejo told the claimant that if he (the claimant) ever came to the office of the 1st Defendant, he, Badejo, will terminate the life of the claimant.
“This incident was reported to the Police in 2018 and is under investigation. When the Police commenced investigation into this complaint by the plaintiff in 2018, the 2nd Defendant (Tinubu) interfered in the Police investigation to frustrate it.”
Apara said that despite being a signatory to the company's account, from 2018 to date, Messrs. Badejo and Tinubu have colluded to operate the bank accounts amongst themselves without his involvement contrary to the subsisting mandate which stipulates that he and Badejo jointly sign any amount as “A” signatories, apart from a limit of N10 million monthly which may be signed jointly by any “A” and a “B” sig-natory.
The “B” signatory was designated as Mr. Bode Oluyemi, an employee of the company.
Suspicious that his signature was being forged to enable Tinubu to operate the bank accounts of the company without his involvement, Apara claimed that he wrote to the bankers of the company in February revoking his mandate for any debit transactions.
Alleged breach of agreements
Apara claimed that Clause 8 of the Partnership Agreement which relates to Profit and Losses provides that “the Partnership's profits and losses (including profits and losses of capital) shall be divided between and borne by the Partners in proportion to the shares in its capital for the time being owned by them.”
However, he said, the company has received from the Lagos State Government commission for its services estimated at over N150 billion from 2010 to date with the profits of the Partnership being that sum minus legitimate costs.
Despite the huge income made by the company, he said, Messrs. Badejo and Doherty “acting under the direction of the 2nd Defendant (Tinubu) breached Clause 8 of the Partnership Agreement and denied” him (Apara) his share of the profit from the partnership as provided in the agreement.
“The claimant avers that Messrs. Tunde Badejo, Michael Olurinde Ogunmola and Akin Doherty have colluded and conspired to run the affairs of the business in a manner designed to bankrupt the 1st Defendant through suspicious monetary transfers to 3rd parties running into billions of naira contrary to the Partnership Agreement,” he averred, listing some of the alleged suspicious transactions.
He alleged further that during a review of the company's account, he discovered that huge sums of money earned by the company over the years were not reflected in the account.
“The claimant avers that the account review alluded above revealed large scale fraudulent transactions some of which are stated above and diversion of the 1st Defendant funds running into billions of naira by the 2nd and 3rd Defendants,” the writ stated.
“The Claimant shall contend at the trial of the suit that actions of the 3rd Defendant acting alone or in connivance with the 2nd Defendant is a continuing violation of the Laws of Lagos State as it pertains to Partnerships as well as a violation of the Partnership Agreement through which the 1st Defendant came into existence.”
Apara claimed that he confronted Badejo who then admitted to him that the funds of the company were grossly mismanaged over the years including the diversion for purported joint venture purposes at the direction of Tinubu.
“The said partner confided in the claimant that it was the style of the 2nd Defendant (Tinubu) to corrupt his office and extort benefits of between 70% or more from all projects on-going in La¬gos State since he became Governor in 1999 to date,” Apara said in the writ.
“The said partner further cited as example to the Claimant the Global Computerisation Project which is being handled by another company of his called Soft Alliance and Resources Limited and where all the payments received are diverted to the 2nd Defendant (Tinubu).
“Mr. Tunde Badejo also cited the case of the Land Use Charge) Project which followed a similar pattern. The claimant avers that Badejo further admitted that the diversion of the 1st Defendant funds over the years running into billions of naira into suspicious accounts was done in a “smart” way to shield the 2nd Defendant (Tinubu) from public scrutiny and to hide his assets from the Code of Conduct Bureau and the anti-corruption agencies.”
Apara claimed that after Badejo had explained the facts to him, it became clear to him that the company was being used for “massive corruption purposes including tax evasion, bribery of government officials, diversion of the funds.”
However, he said that Badejo thereafter threatened that his life will be in danger if he ever reveals the admitted facts to third parties.
After a thorough and full as¬sessment of the information he received from Badejo which confirmed the poor records book keeping of accounts, Apara said he decided to whistle blow the fraudulent activities, adding that as a stakeholder, he is entitled to the payment of his dividends from 2010 to date in accordance with agreements reached.
Case suffers delay as Tinubu travels
It was reported that a bailiff of the Lagos State High Court, Igbos¬ere, has been unable to serve Tinu¬bu with court processes thereby delaying the case.
Apara's lawyer, Tade Ipadeola, reportedly said that court bailiffs visited Tinubu's home in Bourdillon, Ikoyi, Lagos, but were told that the former governor was out of the country.
He said a similar attempt to serve Alpha Beta at its office in the Ijora area of the state was frustrated as no one was willing to collect it, citing COVID-19.
Ipadeola said, “The court has been unable to serve the defendants. When the court bailiff got to Bourdillon, he was told that Tinubu was out of the country. Also, when the bailiff tried to serve Alpha Beta located at Water House in Ijora, nobody collected it, citing COVID-19.
“So, we will apply to the court to serve them through substituted means.”
He further stated that his client would pursue the case till the very end.
In the interim, Alpha Beta LLP, has denied allegations levelled against it by Apara, adding that he in fact diverted N6bn from the company.
Alpha Beta said in a statement by its Managing Director, Akin Doherty, that Apara was the one that was culpable as he had diverted about $5m during his time as managing director by inflating a contract which was worth about $300,000 and then diverted a separate N6bn to personal use.
The firm said it had reported Apara's alleged fraud to the appropriate authorities but he had refused to show up and rather remained in Dubai.
It said Apara was an aggrieved ex-employee who was bent on tarnishing the image of the company after being sacked for financial impropriety.
“The fact is that Dapo Apara began making his untrue allegations in the aftermath of his removal as Managing Director of Alpha Beta for fraud and unethical practices. While he was MD, Apara used his position to siphon huge sums of money from the company including but not limited to fraudulently converting $5m; money allegedly used to pay for cloud based services that were eventually discovered to be worth less than $300,000.
“Mr. Apara, who was a signatory to all the bank accounts of Alpha Beta from inception until his removal, received all his payments and entitlements until June 2018 when he was removed after his fraudulent misconduct was discovered.
“In July 2018 further evidence of his fraudulent and unethical practices was uncovered, including the revelation that he converted approximately N6bn belonging to Alpha Beta to his personal use.”
The firm said Apara's allegations levelled against Tinubu were specious and diversionary.
The 2023, Malami, Magu Influences
This is not the first time Tinubu will be in the dock of public opinion on alleged corrupt practices.
His corruption trial based on illegal operation of foreign accounts collapsed on November 30, 2011 before the Code of Conduct Tribunal sitting in Abuja.
The former governor was arraigned in September 2011, at the tribunal over allegations that he illegally operated 10 foreign accounts during his term in office as Lagos state governor between 1999 and 2007.
Before dismissing the charges the tribunal firmly dismissed Tinubu's lawyers' challenge of its jurisdiction. However, the three-man tribunal dismissed the charges because it claimed the charges presented by the prosecution was defective and shoddy.
Currently, the Jagaban Borgu is at the open end of the barrel of the APC gun. He is tied to the stake called Alpha-Beta Consulting LLP. And the gun is roaring and spitting fire, emitting white smoke at the muzzle.
He is about to be pushed out of the political equation in 2023. Tinubu is about to be thoroughly demystified and made totally unsalable as a presidential candidate.
Since the July 6, 2020 arrest, detention and subsequent suspension of the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu over alleged corruption leveled against him by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, a new and perhaps invidious political twists have been exposed on the real intentions behind Magu's travails.
Although Magu has been released on bail on July 15, the permutations over who will succeed Buhari in 2023 appears to have been deeply rooted in the controversy and confusion surrounding Magu's corruption allegations as power blocs within the ruling APC appear to be jockeying to outwit and outfox one another for the control of the party's structures.
It is public knowledge that Tinubu is nursing the ambition to succeed Buhari as President in 2023 and is said to have amassed massive structures and mobilis¬ing support to clinch the ticket of the APC once power shifts to the south.
Although the Jagaban Borgu, recently denied any ambition for 2023, pundits believe the momentary denial was to reduce the alleged suspicion by the Buhari administration said to be uncomfortable with power shift and especially to Tinubu.
A Public Affairs analyst, Katch Ononuju, reportedly said recently that the dismantling of Magu over multiple allegations of re-looting recovered assets, insubordination and misconduct leveled against him by Malami “is a recalibration of the internal in-fighting of factions in the ruling coalition of the APC ahead of the 2023 election.”
The public intellectual reportedly said that Magu belongs to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the faction of the APC that has Tinubu as its arrowhead.
He noted that Magu allowed himself to be used by President Buhari as a recruitment tool of the APC apparently referring to Magu's alleged aggression against opponents of the Buhari government using the anti-corruption fight to intimidate many people into joining the APC to avoid being investigated.
He added that now that the 2019 elections are over the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) faction led by President Buhari with Malami as the chief enforcer of their agenda has started to strategies to emasculate any threat within.
Malami is also said to be tackling Magu in order to shield himself from the deluge of corruption allegations leveled against him by Magu, especially on the issue of selling recovered assets particularly crude oil vessels without recourse to the relevant provisions of the 2004 EFCC Act. Ononuju also referred to the recent debacle of the former National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, a key member of the ACN faction and how he was made irrelevant, downgraded and humiliated out of office after being used to catapult President Buhari to power for a second term.
Ononuju explained that Oshiomhole provided the Buhari faction with the perfect timing and warned that the Buhari group is crafty, adding that in the next six months the most powerful man in the ACN faction, Tinubu, might be dragged to the political guillotine.
“Magu is a Tinubu man and they have to remove him for them to find a part to get at Tinubu. They are going after Tinubu's people and by the time they are through in the next six months, a lot of things would have taken care of themselves.
“The new EFCC chairman will be given instruction on what to do,” Ononuju said, stressing that Malami and his group would have succeeded in emasculating their opponents in the coming months.
Oshiomhole is particularly in deeper trouble as the new Acting chairman of the EFCC, Mohammed Umar, is said to have received instructions from the Presidency to investigate the former APC national chairman as documents linking him to massive corruption were found in Magu's house when it was searched by security agents.
When asked about the alleged desperation of the Buhari government to destroy any opposition from within and without, Ononuju said that Buhari is planning to protect alleged 'Fulani-centric' policies and programmes that he had implemented in the last five years and is afraid that power shift to the South will reverse his legacies.
“The only way to save these legacies is to put a pro-Fulani candidate as the President in 2023. But it looks like a very difficult business knowing full well that the north by 2023 would have done eight years and if they try to force it, the APC dies as an alliance,'' he warned.
Contributing, the President of the Middle Belt Forum, Pogu Bitrus, did not share the idea about Magu's connection to Tinubu, even though he agreed that Magu has been a pawn in the chess game being played by the Buhari administration.
He however, said that with regards to 2023, he has no doubts that President Buhari would want somebody of his type to take over from him whether the person is from the north or from the south, adding that Buhari will not give power to somebody outside of his own circle.
He expressed concern that Buhari may not sign the amended Electoral Bill into law and will re¬tain the current electoral system as he did before the 2019 election so that he can do whatever he wants to do in 2023.
“The issue is the way the country is constituted. The way the electoral system is constituted the President can install whoever he wants with the electoral law in op-eration with the kind of INEC that we have. Unless votes are transmitted electronically by changing the electoral law, there is nothing we can do about it. Buhari will install whoever he wants using the system on ground.
“So, even if Tinubu contests and Buhari does not want him, they will use this electoral law to shift power to who they want,” he said.
Bitrus further said that the clamour for power shift to the south is in order in a diverse society like Nigeria, but warned that Buhari and his men have the machinery to stop any body they don't want.
“The political parties have an unwritten constitution that power should rotate between the north and south, I know that of the PDP, and I believe the APC has something similar, especially as power has stayed in the north now for eight years and is supposed to shift to the south.
“However, unless the electoral system changes these same people in APC could field a northerner on PDP platform and they will all shift to PDP and even if you give Tinubu the APC ticket he will go nowhere,” he said. (Sunday Independent)