The Role Played by El-Rufai in NITEL Land Scam

An investigation by PowerSteering had sometimes in 2014 unearthed a scam in Abuja in which officials of the late Umaru Yar’Adua government as well as the Goodluck Jonathan administration allegedly colluded with this shady property developer in a deal where a government-owned land was bought and sold back to a government own agency at a scandalous profit for the private developer (A Group Properties Ltd.) also own by this same man.
At the center of the deal is Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu (boss of AA Oil), a close friend of the ex-convict former governor of Bayelsa state, late D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha. Former Governor Alamieyeseigha was prosecuted for money laundering by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) – and convicted.
The highly questionable land deal also involved the Central Bank of Nigeria, which was allegedly used as a conduit to buy back a piece of land that had earlier been sold to Mr. Aliyu by the Yar’Adua regime.
The high-priced piece of land, located in the central business district of Abuja across from the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), originally belonged to the Nigerian Telecom Company (NITEL).
A source at the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) where El-Rufai also an Ebira man had held sway told PowerSteering that when NITEL was about to be liquidated, the large piece of land was put aside as an asset to be applied to the NITEL pension fund. The pension fund had a deficit running into billions of naira. However, before handing over to Umaru Yar’Adua, the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo decided to hand the land over to the Ministry of Communication, which was then headed by John Odey, a former secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) (who just passed away in October 2018).
Once Mr. Yar’Adua took over, Mr. Abubakar Aliyu, the owner of AA Oil, with benefit of the information given to him by his Ebira kinsman, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai who had all the information about the BPE and good knowledge of the land had allegedly began to lobby top members of that government to persuade Mr. Yar’Adua to approve for the property developer to buy the land from the Ministry of Communication. Our sources disclosed that officials of the ministry protested, arguing that it made more economic and strategic sense for the ministry to develop the land on its own.
Besides, at the time that Mr. Aliyu was bargaining to acquire the land, he and his company were deeply indebted to several banks and had defaulted on several loans, the highest being one from Skye bank. Despite his shady corporate profile and huge debt burden, Mr. Aliyu was able to secure Mr. Yar’Adua’s approval of the deal to buy the land.
Several sources told our investigators that the rogue businessman bribed his way to Mr. Yar’Adua’s approval. And then, since the approval came just before Mr. Yar’Adua took gravely ill and was flown away to a hospital in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Aliyu manipulated the process of the land deal, including fixing the evaluation of the property, a task that ought to have been done by the Federal Government. “Alhaji AA Oil bribed officials in President Yar’Adua’s government, and they let him use his personal evaluators to value the land,” said a source.
Our sources further revealed that Mr. Aliyu’s evaluator did not assess the value of the land, but focused on an uncompleted building on the land. A legal wrangling during the era of former General Sani Abacha had led to the freezing of the uncompleted building. The legal tussle arose when Nasir el-Rufai, who acted as a quantity surveyor on the development, dragged the Abacha regime to court over contractual services offered to the government. Mr. el-Rufai was later to handle the botched privatization of NITEL, which included the land. Seeing that he couldn’t have been allowed to buy it from the Yar’Adua administration he allegedly gave the necessary information to his Ebira brother to use his influence to buy it.
Our sources disclosed that the land area was 80,000 square meter. They also revealed that the going rate of land in the area at the time of the evaluation was N100,000 per square meter in the area. Going by that rate, the government could have easily negotiated to sell the land for at least N8 billion naira. However, in what was the first phase of the scam, the evaluator hired by Mr. Aliyu focused entirely on the uncompleted property on the land, ignoring the value of the land itself.
As a result of Mr. Aliyu’s fraudulent moves, he got the government to sell him the land for less than N1 billion. A few years later, he attempted to sell the land to several businesses, including a firm belonging to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. A source said Mr. Atiku reportedly offered to buy the property for N3.5 billion, but Mr. Aliyu rejected the offer, asking for N4 billion to enable him to offset one of his bad bank loans. He could not find a willing buyer.
As several banks increased their pressure on the debt-burdened AA Oil, threatening to take over the company’s assets, Mr. Aliyu approached more buyers, including banks, but none put together an offer that the company considered acceptable.
However, Mr. Aliyu’s troubles ended when the Goodluck Jonathan administration came into office. Attorney General at that time happened to be Mohammed Bello Adoke, who is reportedly an Ebira man from the same area as the owner of AA Oil in Kogi State, started working directly to help AA Oil market its landed properties.
One source said Mr. Aliyu recruited Mr. Adoke to speak to Goodluck Jonathan, who was then completing the remainder of Yar’Adua’s presidential tenure.
With the attorney general on his side, AA Oil saw a quick swing in its fortunes. The company had two properties for sale. President Jonathan approved a deal for the Central Bank of Nigeria to immediately buy one for N4.5 billion on behalf of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). Sources within the Presidency and the Central Bank told our source then that the six-storey building was over-inflated. Even so, payments were promptly made to AA Oil.
Soon after the conclusion of this property sale to AMCON, Mr. Adoke again approached Mr. Jonathan whose relationship with him had already been consolidated with Abubakar Aliyu through his former boss Alamieyeseigha with a proposal to ask the CBN to buy the controversial NITEL property from Mr. Aliyu. One source said that President Jonathan found the deal too good to disregard when Mr. Adoke suggested that the sale would be a good source of campaign funds for the Jonathan presidential campaign in the coming years.
As soon as Jonathan gave his approval for the deal to proceed, the CBN corralled an evaluation committee to value the land. The evaluators reported returned with hugely over-inflated evaluations. One group claimed the property was worth N21 billion while another group put the value at N17 billion. The CBN did not only speedily approve the deal; it also quickly paid Mr. Aliyu through two banks. One of the payments to Skye Bank reportedly wiped out AA Oil’s debt to the bank. A second trance was paid through another commercial bank. It was from this second payment that several officials involved in the deal, including Mr. Jonathan, received a share of the loot. Our sources confirmed that Mr. Jonathan’s campaign received $7 million (approx. N1.2 billion) in December 2010 through the treasurer of the then Jonathan Campaign team, Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi. She later became Minister of Aviation whose tenure was truncated by scandalous issues bordering on the over invoiced purchase of 7series BMW cars and many more deals. She is now in the senate, a safe haven for the corrupt politicians.
Our sources said CBN staff members who processed the deal shared N1 billion. Attorney General Adoke was also handsomely rewarded. Mr. Aliyu, whose property business specializes in building and furnishing homes for sale, built and donated two houses to Mr. Adoke. One of the magnificent buildings is reportedly strategically located on Gana Street intersection overlooking the Hilton Hotel while the second house is on Ikogosi Street, near the official residence of the Inspector General of Police in the Maitama section of Abuja. The one on Gana Street has a motorized gate and it’s constantly manned by armed Mobile Policemen.
A source, who once worked in the Presidency, said he was shocked that the government would dole out approximately N20 billion for a piece of land it sold just a few years ago for less than N1 billion. “This is the kind of deal that makes Nigerians look at people in government as crooks,” said the source.
An official at the Central Bank of Nigeria, who asked not to be named, claimed that the bank relied on evaluations provided by professional real estate valuers in arriving at a price for the property. The Central Bank also stated that an international conference center that meets “global standards” is to be built on the land acquired from Mr. Aliyu which it earlier refuted.
But a source in Abuja described the CBN claim as “both curious and spurious.” “Look, the Federal Government has in recent years been selling properties owned by it at greatly discounted prices. It has also begun a policy of monetization for public officials instead of building new government buildings in Abuja. In fact, it was with this pretext that most government-owned properties, including this NITEL property, were sold a few years ago,” said the source.
Alh. Abubakar Aliyu is alleged to have fronted for so many politically exposed office holders in Nigeria cutting across all geo-political zones and ethnic and religious barriers. He is an Ebira who started off life in Kaduna in the 90s but has reached out to so many political bigwigs, laundering money through Petroleum Product Marketing and Estate Development. Most of his houses and the ones he has built for those he fronts for are usually unique in style, designs and finishings, mostly like medieval castles.
Our investigators went round Abuja city and located some of those houses in different locations. The biggest castle of them all is located at No. 15 Lephalala close, off Ganges Street, off Alvan Ikoku Street, Maitama. Another big project of over 50 large buildings is the estate at Monrovia Street, Off Mallam Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja. There are also identical buildings on 19 & 19A Nun Street, Off Danube Street, Maitama Abuja. At the end of Amazon Street, Maitama, Abuja is also an abandoned project which our source said was actually being built for the ex-president Goodluck Jonathan from his shares of the NITEL Largess, in addition is his office adjacent B Natural Saloon, along Madiera Street, Opposite Defence House, Maitama, Abuja.
When our reporter went round Kaduna, he was shown to many of his houses. We started from the Ungwan Rimi House where he started life with his first Egyptian wife. The house which is located close to Total Filling Station U/Rimi has been modified to reflect the modern architectural designs. Then his main house at No. 16 Sultan Close built on a large expanse land in Ungwan Rimi GRA. Another notable one still under construction, PowerSteering investigation reveals is next door to Zaki Klub off New Dawaki Road Kaduna. The house is massive and bears the trademark of Alh. Abubakar Aliyu’s architectural style. One other unique thing about Aliyu’s houses is that the parameter fences are casted in concrete form from foundation to the top, making them re-enforced and impenetrable.
Our source who spoke anonymously to us said the houses are countless but emphasized that Aliyu has four wives with numerous concubines and each one has a house to herself with countless cars. Alh. Abubakar is said to be so generous with his in-laws as well. He builds houses for the families of his wives/in-laws and cater for them generously. As at the time of going to press, we confirmed that Alh. Abubakar Aliyu is currently hibernating away from the long arm of EFCC in Republic of Benin and secretly sneaks into the country from time to time, when most of his cars have been removed from the house, and his house bear different ownership while working hard with AGIS to effect the changes.
Another source in Abuja revealed to us how Alh. Abubakar Aliyu married a 22 year old Nigerien wife whose father had worked with the defunct Nigerian Railway Corporation in the 60s and 70s. After retirement from NRC, the man earned his living in retirement as a security man, when eventually Aliyu married this man’s daughter, destiny smiled at him and life changed for better for the family. Aliyu built the wife’s family a house in an estate along Yalinga Street Off Adetukumbo Ademola Street, Wuse II Abuja.
Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu hates media reports and hates journalists with passion. He has once over-ran an Abuja-based publisher of National Wave Magazine out of town and this will be different.

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