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$27m Missing in the US Embassy????

The Nigerian Embassy

The Senate on Thursday began an investigation into the alleged mismanagement of over $27m proceeds from the sale of Federal Government properties by officials of the Nigerian Embassy in the United States of America.

This follows a petition to the President of the Senate, David Mark, by a non-governmental organisation, Transform Nigeria Movement, praying the Senate to conduct an investigation and make its findings known to the public.

Read further after the break....
The petition, which was signed by Mr. Daniel Elombah, stated that between 2004 and 2007, the Nigerian Embassy sold four prime properties of the Federal Government located in Washington DC and Maryland.

The petitioner alleged that the embassy also commenced the sale of other properties in San Francisco, California within the period.

Elombah stated in the petition, “Out of those sales, Nigeria realised the sum of approximately $27m. All funds realised from these sales, except those set aside as fees, were remitted to the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington DC.

“As of June 2007, when the law firm that advised the embassy on the sale of the properties met with embassy officials at the embassy premises in Washington, all these funds and transactions were duly confirmed.”

The petitioner also alleged that it was confirmed that the embassy placed the funds in a special account with the M & T Bank in Washington DC and remained in that position after Ambassador George Obiozor had returned to Nigeria after completing his service in Washington.

TNM further alleged, “Surprisingly, the Embassy of Nigeria left the money in Washington partly because it yielded substantial monthly interests, which the embassy officials would never have to account for.

“Those funds remained in those accounts throughout the tenure of Ambassador Oluwole Rotimi; then arrived Ambassador Adebowale Adefuye in Washington. When Adefuye got to Washington, those funds were still lodged in the M & T Bank account intact.

“Between the time Adefuye became the ambassador until March of 2012, the millions in the accounts mysteriously disappeared. This became clear when M&T Bank was forced to close the accounts of the Nigerian Embassy and to terminate all banking relations with the embassy at the beginning of 2012.”

The petition had a cover note by the Chief of Staff to the President of the Senate, Anthony Manzo, urging the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs to treat it.

Upon the receipt of the petition, the committee summoned Obiozor; Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Joy Ogwu; and Adefuye.

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Matthew Nwagwu, while addressing the ambassadors on the purpose of the investigation, said it was to unravel the mystery surrounding the management of the funds.

He said, “We have invited you because of an allegation of embezzlement in our mission in Washington, particularly the sale of property in the US. It was alleged that the proceeds of the sales have been squandered by certain officials.

“Our job here is to give you a chance to address the committee and tell us what you know about the property sale, management and administration of the accounts, while you were in office. The committee has got a petition and we are not taking it on its face value; we want to give the ambassadors opportunities to explain their own roles.

“We are not a court of law, we are not going on a trial, we are doing this for posterity and to keep the records straight, and I am sure most of you will be happy that we have invited you to have the opportunity to clarify the matter.”

The committee decided that it would conduct the investigative hearing behind closed doors, taking the ambassadors separately and promised to brief the press on its findings after the hearing.

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