Mobolaji Aluko, Ph.D.
Pages 15 ff of Tribune of Friday 29 November, 2002
"NZERIBE'S ASSETS WORTH GBP 925 MILLION [STERLING]"
In the eighties, in furtherance of my ambition at that point in time to contest for the Governorship of Imo State, I published a booklet entitled "IMO MARSHAL PLAN CHARTER 90: HOW ARTHUR WILL GOVERN IMO STATE.":
That booklet was circulated to almost every family in the then Imo State which included the present Abia State. I know that most people relished and preserved that publication. At page 4 of the booklet, I published a resume of my family resources irrevocably available at my disposal I funding amongst other needs my personal political endeavours for life. An extract from that publication is hereby made available.
The NZERIBE TURST and the AGUNZE TRUST which were set up in 1979 with GBP175 million sterling and in 1983 with GBP200 million sterling respectively remain unarguably the clear source of my political funding. As at 1st March 1988, the Auditors, the Chartered Accountants, the appropriate government regulatory bodies, for tax purposes agreed that the Net Asset Value of the Agunze Trust was worth GBP 400 million sterling. (Four hundred million pounds sterling).
The Nzeribe Trust was GBP525 million (Five hundred and twenty five million pounds sterling) as clearly stated on page 7, Item No. 15 of the Charter document. Similarly, Obiora Monu & Co., Chartered Accountants based in Nigeria had put the Net Asset Value of the Nigerian Investments at N181,080,750.00 (One hundred and eighty million, eighty thousand, seven hundred and fifty naira) as also stated on page 7, item No. 17 as at 31st December, 1988.
The above facts were reflected in my sworn affidavit at the Lagos High Court dated 18th April, 1988 on page 8. On page 7, item No. 18, it was clearly summarized that the total Net Value of Nzeribe Family Trusts and the Agunze Trust Worldwide including other investments was in excess of N12, 206,080,750 (Twelve billon, two hundred and six million, eighty thousand, seven hundred and fifty naira) using an exchange range of N13.00 to GBP 1 sterling (One pound sterling) applicable at that time, and the current exchange rate of about N200.00 (Two Hundred Naira) to GBP 1 sterling has not been applied. I wish to state that no revaluation has been carried out since 1988. You may wish to imagine the present Net Asset value of the Trust investment worldwide.
The point I wish to make is that I was never and will never be for sale as my detractors are always anxious to portray. Probably, I have been at fault for not defending this plant of the cheap propaganda of my detractors. You cannot buy me. Indeed, like any other family member beneficiary, I also render account to the Trust's management who I have to apply for funds when needed. At the risk of sounding immodest during my sixtieth birthday event, I made a publication that I had by then invested over N10,000,000,000.00 (ten billion naira) in politics in Nigeria without deriving any financial reward directly from politics. This is the simple truth and I am yet to be contradicted. Also till date, the disclosures I made concerning the TRUSTS, the supporting affidavits and their Statements of Affairs and Certificate of Net Assets remain uncontradicted. These Certificates and Statements of Affair s were issued by professional and regulatory bodies both in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. These are exhibited in the booklet.)
In my political journey in Nigeria so far, I have been able to play a publicly acknowledged financial role in the defunct Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) etc. It is common knowledge that I was a financial pillar of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). I ran effortlessly the activities of the party in the entire Eastern States from funds made available from the Trusts. It was an irrefutable fact that I financed candidates nationwide both in the NRC and SDP at all levels of candidature including State Governorships. It was my political ingenuity and serious financial commitment that helped the cognomen "CARIA STATES" make the remarkable impact that the SDP made in all the Southern States. This represented the thrust of my financial commitment to that political party.
It is also evident that I was the sole financier of the unregistered political party, the National Democratic Party (NDP) which was adjudged one of the best 8 (eight) of about 18 (eighteen) associations that sought registration during the transition programme of the Babangida Administration.
In the recent past, I single-handedly handled financed the activities of the defunct Association for Better Nigeria (ABN), the pressure group that legitimately and constitutionally went to court under the due process of law and obtained the judgement restraining the conduct and eventually the non-release of the results of the presidential elections of that year [JUNE 12 ELECTION RESULTS] by the electoral commission.
The association did not receive any iota of financial assistance from the Babangida Administration. There are living witnesses amongst the top echelons of that regime who should feel free to contradict my position. All the funds expended in realizing the objectives of the association were provided by me from the funds made available or provided by the TRUSTS at my own request. In the same vein are the activities of the defunct Union of Democratically Elected Representatives of Nigeria (UDERN) and the present MONAC.
Therefore, if I spent millions of naira of my own money to promote ABN and other such pressure groups which I believed in, why is it difficult to believe that I am spending my own millions of naira now to support Obasanjo by opposing an underserved impeachment intrigue? It is in the light of the above facts that I am amused by the uncharitable or unreasonable suspicion that in trying to make my political conceptions and projections a reality, it must surreptitiously be "to make money." I, however, agree that part of the burden of living in a corrupt society is to explain everything away in monetary terms. Certainly, that is not my style. In this context, it is on record that I had in the past been reported as criticizing Nigerian public officials for "stealing what they do not need." I am convinced that with the material resources at my disposal, provided by the TRUSTS. I can sustain my standard of living for life, and do exactly what I want to do politically, legally, any time, any place, based on my conviction. Monetary inducement does not motivate or excite me, I have seen it all. Conviction motivates and excites me sometimes; I am driven to be more catholic than the Pope.
In the Senate impeachment imbroglio against President Obasanjo, I believed in and adopted an opposition view from the Senate leadership. I practically implored every senator [THAT] I lobbied. Although, I am presently suffering an undeserved suspension, it is gratifying to be acknowledged as a principal factor in getting the Senate to realize that the impeachment plan was an ill wind, underserved and inspired by a hidden political agenda.
In the course of pursing this project, I have received a gift and donation of US$125,000,000.00 (one hundred and twenty five million United States dollars) from the AGUNZE TRUST. It is instructive that out of this fund, I have so far drawn only US$17 million (Seventeen million dollars) as follows:
(a) US$3.5 million 10/9/2002
(b) US$3.5 million 12/9/2002
(c) US$10 million on 14/11/2002
At a parallel conversion rate of N141 to one US dollar, I have at my disposal N2,397,000,000 (two billion three hundred and ninety seven million naira) - were it all to have been exchanged. I believed that answers the question of who is my financier or my source of wealth.
While funds for my political activities may not literally be "a river that never runs dry", I do not require to look for sponsors for any political budget that I wish to implement. That is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I always pick up my political bills.
ON 16th March 1988, Nzeribe swore to an affidavit in Imo State viz:
IN THE HIGH COURT OF IMO STATE OF NIGERIA IN THE HIGH COURT OF OGUTA JUDICIAL DIVISION HOLDEN AT AGUTA
DECLARATION OF MEANS
CHIEF FRANCIS ARTHUR NZERIBE, Nigerian, of HAVEN OF PEACE, Oguta, Imo State do make oath and solemnly declare as follows:
1. That my full names are FRANCIS ARTHUR NZERIBE.
2. That I am the Ogbuagu, Osniji, Damanze Oyimba of Oguta in Imo State of Nigeria.
3. That I am a part time businessman.
4. That I propose to contest election for the Senate seat of Imo West.
5. That in support of my manifesto and candidacy I am obliged to declare my assets and sources of income, and that I will do in due time.
6. I hereby declare that I do not have any material personal assets, both here in Nigeria or anywhere in the world.
7. That in 1979 I set up the NZERIBE TRUST in Nassau Bahamas.
8. That the capital for the Nzeribe Trust was derived from assets of the Nzeribe Family members consisting of my wife, two brothers, two sisters and my four children - amounting at the time to GBP 175,000.000.00 (GBP 175 million sterling). Consequently, I divested myself of all my assets and liabilities which were fully inherited by the TRUSTS.
9. That I am the Consultant and Adviser to the Nzeribe Trust and not a beneficiary thereof.
10. That since inception of the Trust, there has not been any revaluation of the real property stock and shares which constitute the Trust assets but I am informed by the Trust Manager and Trustees and I verily believe that the value of the assets as at 31st December, 1988 was approximately GBP 525,000,000 (GBB 525 million sterling)
11. That the document shown to me and marked "EXHIBIT A" to the declaration is an Auditor's Certificate issue by Messrs Fisher, Sasson and Marks, Auditors to the Nzeribe Trust verifying the value of the assets to be GBP525,000,000.00 (GBP525 million.)
12. That the AGUNZE TRUST was established by my first son, UZOMA CHARLES NZERIBE in October 1983 at Jersey, Channel Islands for the benefit of the Nzeribe Family.
13. That I am neither a Consultant nor Adviser or Beneficiary of the AGUNZE TRUST.
14. I am informed by my son, Uzoma, and I verily believe him, that the initial capital of the Trust was GBP 200,000,000.00 (GBP 200 million) and that to date, there has been no revaluation of the assets thereof.
15. That the document shown to me and marked "EXHIBIT B" to this declaration is an Auditor's Certificate issued by Messrs Fisher, Sasson and Marks, Auditors to the Agunze Trust verifying that assets are work GBP400,000,000.00 (GBP 400 million).
16. That I was the founder, principal shareholder and director of several Nigerian companies whose total assets as at 31st December, 1988 stood at N181,080,750.
17. That the document then shown to me and marked "EXHIBIT C" to this declaration is an Auditors Certificate issued by Messrs Obiora & Co., Auditors to the group of companies verifying that the assets of the companies are worth N181,080,750.00.
18. That I know as a fact that the value of the Nzeribe Family Trust and Investments all over the world is in excess of N12,206,080,750.00 or N12,206 billion [MILLION] as per the valuations, statement of Account as at inception dates.
19. That ever since 1979 when I went into full time politics in Nigeria, the respective TRUST had given me full moral and financial support.
20. That I verily believe that the respective TRUST will continue to support me morally and financially in all my political endeavours.
21. I solemnly declare that I wish to be Senator of Imo West ONLY to serve my people and change the quality of life in Imo State for the BEST.
22. That I solemnly declare that I shall not enrich myself or my family from public funds during my tenure of office as Senator of Imo State.
23. That I make this Declaration conscientiously, in good faith and in support of my manifesto for election as a candidate for Imo West Senatorial Seat of Imo State of Nigeria.
SWORN TO AT THE OGUTA HIGH COURT
THIS 16th DAY OF MARCH, 1988
Summary of Nzeribe's Riches, Investments and Their Political Usage
The NZERIBE TRUST - established 1979 - GBP175 million sterling
The AGUNZE TRUST - established 1983 - GBP200 million sterling
Net Asset Values As at March 1, 1988:
NAV of Nzeribe Trust - GBP 525 million sterling
NAV of Agunze Trust - GBP 400 million sterling (acc. To auditors)
As at March 31, 1988:
NAV of the Nigerian Investments - N181,080,750.00
His pro-Obasanjo, anti-impeachment lobbies:
Gift and donation from the AGUNZE TRUST - US$125,000,000.00
Amount drawn so far:
(a) US$3.5 million - on September 10, 2002
(b) US$3.5 million - on September 12, 2002
(c) US$10 million - on November 14, 2002
TOTAL - $17 million
At a parallel conversion rate of N141 to one US dollar-
TOTAL - N2,397,000,000
While the Oguta Igboman would say "O di egwu!", and the common streetman would say "Na wa o!", the Yoruba would say, "Ehn, Nzeribe ti di Agbonmagbe? Oro pe'si je!" - meaning that "I am Speechless in Burtonsville at Nzeribe's Endless Well of Dollars!" Like him or hate him, by publishing the above financial statements, Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe has displayed both panache and chutzpah that is worth commending.
The chutzpah is particularly worth noting. A man of "no personal assets" hides away his real wealth in family trusts in Nassau (the Bahamas) and Jersey (Channel Islands) - those well-known tax haven-islands of the rich and famous and shady characters. Yet he is not a BENEFICIARY of the Agunze Trust as sworn in Article 13 before an Oguta Court.
One wonders what wonders he would have done with money if he were REALLY a beneficiary of Agunze Trust! One wonders how a man can be so rich in such a poor country like ours and yet not make a big difference in the lives of his Oguta people and their environs. If one remembers how Nzeribe's nefarious activities with respect to June 12 caused a serious 5-year social, political and economic set-back from which our country is yet to recover, one scratches his head in wonderment as to whether his personal riches are not a curse to Nigeria. It is his kind of activities in connivance with the powers that be that made it such that an exchange rate of N13.00 to GBP 1 sterling in 1988 is today about N200.00, meaning that dollar-laden people like Nzeribe got to be 15 times richer in Nigerian terms within that period by doing VIRTUALLY NOTHING productively, while Naira-saddled Nigerians got 15 times poorer due to no fault of theirs!
I also hope that President Obasanjo, our erstwhile itinerant beggar for debt relief, once again sees why Nigeria will NEVER be given debt relief. He has just read of ONE MAN - admittedly one who seems not to have held any public office before acquiring his wealth, but a highly-visible public figure in Nigeria - who has such large sums of monies stashed away in foreign lands. It must have been people like Nzeribe that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was referring to when she said that a few Nigerians could easily pay off our external debt!
Anyway, in this particular issue of contest with his fellow senators, how Nzeribe got his wealth on or before 1988 is another issue entirely. Now that he is being humiliated in the Senate with an imposition of an indefinite suspension - after being called a thief, a liar and a fraud - he is fighting back to regain the little dignity that he has, and is challenging all the others who are accusing him, particularly Senator Anyim Pius Anyim (or Pius Anyim Pius), to put up or shut up.
That must be commended - and I commend him.
Now we must wait for Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim to disclose his old- (or new-found) wealth.
In closing, one MUST also "commend" the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for showing its own chutzpah by setting up to probe Justice Akanbi's ICPC, just as that Anti-Corruption Committee was set to probe both Senator Anyim and Speaker Na'Abba. The coincidence is too coincidental. This is galling, disgraceful impunity. Without prejudging any of the parties involved, it is like alleged armed robbers setting up court to probe an accusation of wife-beating against a magistrate before who they have been brought.
These accusations and counter-accusations of corruption - as well as moves and counter-moves of the accused parties - mean that we in Nigeria will be in the woods atop the international corruption list for a long time.
Let us pray.