Charles Soludo parties with looted funds

SoludoAs he challenges Andy Uba for governorship ticket- On the heels of an opulent party in Enugu to celebrate his exit from the Central Bank

, former CBN governor Charles Soludo – under whose watch and connivance the Nigerian banking industry came to the brink of collapse – is set for another round of celebration tonight, this time in Abuja.

A source close to Soludo, a former professor of economics at the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, told Saharareporters that tonight’s Abuja party was meant to launch Soludo’s bid to become governor of Anambra State. A gubernatorial election is scheduled to hold in the state next February.Saharareporters obtained a special text invitation personally sent out by Soludo to a small group of people, most of them Nigerians with shady pasts or ties to Soludo during his tenure as CBN governor.

The text read: “Please join me at a reception dinner in my honour organized by a committee of friends (Signed by Dr. Ekwueme; Chief Anenih; Alhaji Mangal) on my completion of tenure as CBN Gov. on Wed. Sept. 9th 2009 at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja (Lagos Hall) by 7:30 pm prompt. Soludo.”

As Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor, Soludo was chiefly responsible for creating and deepening the now endemic and prolonged rot in the banking sector. Saharareporters had detailed his shenanigans at the helm of CBN. He created a bogey fund known as Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) through which he engaged in questionable practices, including printing monies that he then shared between major banks, among them Oceanic Bank and the United Bank for Africa. 

On coming to power, Umaru Yar’adua set up a panel to look into Soludo’s activities at the AFC. Our sources in Aso Rock disclosed that Soludo was marked for prosecution, but that he staved off his indictment and trial by bribing several political players, including Yar’adua’s wife, Turai, and Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa. Soludo handed $2 million to the Aondoakaa who was given the responsibility of issuing a white paper on the investigation of AFC. He also funneled $4 million to Hajia Turai Yar’adua, a woman who has established a reputation as the most corrupt “First Lady” in history.

In addition, Soludo secured the support of the Saraki family when he restored the banking license of Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN). He pried open an illicit discount window to help former Governor James Ibori’s front companies – Notore Chemicals and Wilbros/ Ascot – to keep defaulting on toxic loans in both Oceanic and Intercontinental banks. To further cover up his sordid financial deals, Soludo got AFC CEO, Austin Ometoruwa, to take the fall on his behalf. For his troubles, Ometoruwa was given a generous exit package. Even so, Ometoruwa was to run into trouble with the London Metropolitan police when he was caught with a huge cache of cash. Metropolitan police sources told Saharareporters that Soludo’s signature was all over the money.

Soludo’s AFC was not immune from the banking crisis that he helped create.

The CBN recently listed his AFC as owing 32 billion in non-performing loans. Soludo’s indifference to the banking crisis he created underscores the general feeling amongst Nigerians that the so-called banking reforms might just be a smoke screen by the non-performing Yar’adua regime to hoodwink Nigerians into believing that his regime intends to end the era of impunity in banking sector.

Soludo’s so-called retirement party tonight is seen as part of the former CBN governor’s effort to checkmate recent moves by former presidential aide, Emmanuel Nnamdi (Andy) Uba to secure Yar’adua’s nod to become the PDP candidate for the Anambra governorship election.

Two sources close to Mr. Uba told Saharareporters that the former domestic aide to President Olusegun Obasanjo had assured his close associates that he has “two jokers in his pocket” in the bid for the Anambra governorship.

Mr. Uba, who does not hold a first degree but passes himself off as a PhD, has asked a Court of Appeal to declare him a “governor-in-waiting” to enable him to take over the governorship without a new election. He has told his associates that, if his judicial gambit fails, he is confident that Yar’adua would pressure the PDP into awarding him the governorship ticket.

Soludo is aware that Obasanjo has been applying pressure on Yar’adua to anoint Uba, said a source close to the former CBN governor.

Two months ago, Obasanjo forwarded Uba’s name for inclusion on Yar’adua’s delegation on an official trip to Brazil. But apparently Uba did not make the trip. At Obasanjo’s urging, Yar’adua again gave Uba a lift on the presidential jet during Yar’adua’s recent trip to Owerri, Imo State, to witness Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s defection to the ruling party.
 The source even stated that Uba was responsible for presenting then Governor Yar’adua to Obasanjo as a presidential candidate. “Look, Chief Uba helped install Yar’adua as president. Why won’t the president help him out now?” the source queried.

As soon as Soludo heard of Uba’s inroads with Yar’adua, he reached out to other friends of the usurper president, Mr. Tony Anenih, Nigeria’s most unprincipled politician, and Mr. Mangal, Yar’adua’s closest friend who is a shadowy businessman and Nigeria’s biggest cross-border smuggler. Anenih, a former chair of the PDP’s board of trustees, is still miffed by the way former President Obasanjo hounded him out of the party post. His support for Soludo is seen as a way to pay back Obasanjo for the political humiliation. Former Vice President Alex Ekwueme used to be an ardent Uba supporter, but has been aggrieved by what a source close to him called “Uba’s acts of disrespect towards him.” Uba gave out cars and cash to Ekwueme and his wives during Uba’s first bid in 2007 to become Anambra governor. “Since then, he has tended to look down on Dr. Ekwueme,” said a source in the Anambra PDP hierarchy. “That’s why Chief Ekwueme is gravitating towards Dr. Charles Soludo.”

In addition to courting Mangal, Anenih and Ekwueme, Soludo is also seeking the support of Turai Yar’adua.

However, a member of Uba’s camp told our correspondent that Soludo is no match for Uba. “Soludo made money from the [Central] Bank, but he cannot talk money wise when Chief Uba talks. In addition, Chief Obasanjo is still very powerful within the party. Even Chief Anenih cannot talk in front of Chief Obasanjo. Whatever Professor Soludo does, don’t forget that Chief Uba played a key role in making Yar’adua president,” said the source. He predicted that Mangal, Anenih and Ekwueme would abandon Soludo once the campaign heats up and “Chief Uba makes his moves.”