By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
The growing financial fraud scandal rocking Alpha-Beta, a consulting firm allegedly owned by former Lagos State governor and All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, could undermine the 2023 presidential ambition of the powerful politician, Business Hallmark findings can reveal.
It would be recalled that a chartered accountant and former managing director of Alpha-Beta, Dapo Apara, had in 2018, accused a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, Alpha-Beta and a former commissioner in the state, Akin Doherty, of money laundering, fraud, tax evasion, and sundry corrupt practices.
Alpha-Beta is a consulting firm handling the computation, tracking and reconciliation of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in Lagos State in return for a 10 per cent commission.
The allegations soon blew away, with nothing heard again of the petition Apara wrote against Tinubu to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
However, the controversy took a dramatic turn last week when Apara, in a 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 control of the consulting firm.
The aggrieved Apara, who claimed to own 30 per cent stake in the company, alleged that the former Lagos governor directed and dictated the affairs of the company by diverting assets to himself at his detriment.
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 was issued by Apara’s lawyer, Tade Ipadeola. He claimed that sometime in 2000, he 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 Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state.
He said that following the presentation of the proposal, Senator Tinubu, who was then the state governor, demanded that 70 per cent equity interest in the project be assigned to a proxy of his before he will approve the project.
Apara said he then met the said proxy in the person of Mr Olumide Ogunmola, who he had never met before, and it was agreed that a limited liability company be incorporated in which Apara will hold 30 per cent shares while Ogunmola and his partners will hold 70 per cent of the shares of the company.
Alpha Beta Consulting Limited was thereafter incorporated in 2002 with the shareholding ratio that shows that 30 per cent was allocated to him (Apara), 40 per cent for Ogunmola, and 30 per cent for Adegboyega Oyetola.
Apara further alleged that after the incorporation of Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd in 2002, the company was structured according to the dictates of Tinubu, in his official capacity as the governor of Lagos State who 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 Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) due and payable to the State at a 10% consultancy fee (subject to a benchmark which varies from time to time).
He said that due to the technology deployed by him, the Internally Generated Revenue of the state grew from a base of about N10 billion in 2002 to over N300 billion in 2019.
He also disclosed that Alpha-Beta had so far received from the Lagos State Government commission for its services estimated at over One hundred and fifty billion naira from 2010 to date with the profits of the partnership being that sum minus legitimate costs.
However, the relationship soon turned sour, and Apara, as he alleged, was later edged out. He alleged 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 and raised concerns which led to his sack.
Out of anger and quest for justice, he approached a Lagos high court seeking several reliefs, including an order compelling an account of all sums due to him 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 percent interest on the sums adjudged to be due to him.
Meanwhile, the controversy generated by the revelations has refused to die, and is currently beclouding the presidential ambition of the Jagaban of Borgu.
BH reliably gathered that there are genuine concerns in the camp of the godfather that the crisis, if not quickly nipped in the bud, could undermine his 2023 presidential ambition.
According to a source close to the Lagos politician, the war Apara is waging is far beyond him.
“The APC is currently enmeshed in leadership battles, with potential presidential aspirants and stakeholders engaging themselves in brutal and potentially damaging battles to get the upper hand.
“Apara is just a tool in some peoples’ hands. Why is the allegation coming up again now? Why now? We can read between the lines. It is a plot to derail Asiwaju’s presidential ambition. But they won’t succeed”, the source said.
It was also learnt that some party loyalists and close allies of President Muhammad Buhari who are averse to Tinubu’s presidential ambition are the ones stoking the scandal in a plot to stop him at all cost. Some of those against Tinubu’s presidential ambition, it was gathered, include Ekiti and Kaduna State governors, Kayode Fayemi and Nasir El-Rufai; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, as well as President Mumammadu Buhari himself who believe that Tinubu would be too powerful as a president and must be stopped.
“The attack has presidency imprints all over it. We have our own sources in Aso Rock, so it is not news to us. You can see that in recent times, close aides of Asiwaju are being harassed. We all know what the current and immediate past speakers have been passing through in the hands of the EFCC. In the spate of one week, Speaker Obasa has been invited at least twice by the anti-corruption agency.
“Their (antiTinubu forces) target is to harass him out of the race by forcing some of his associates to incriminate him with dubious evidences, the way Obasanjo used contrived fraud claims to deprive former Rivers Governor, Peter Odili, the presidency in 2007.
“But insha Allah, they won’t succeed. If it is the wish of the almighty Allah that Tinubu should be President, no one, I repeat, no earthly power can stop him”, said the source.
Findings also revealed that across APC controlled states, party stakeholders and presidential hopefuls have launched brutal fight against the presidential ambition of Tinubu.
This development has created palpable fear within the party’s leadership, following gales of electoral loses and multiple court cases that could give the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) massive advantage in the 2023 general elections.
The crisis, apart from undermining the chances of the APC to remain in power beyond 2023, could also lead to the party losing several of the states it presently controls to the opposition.
The party recently lost Edo, Bayelsa, Oyo and others. Apart from the loss of Benue, Kwara and Sokoto during the 2019 polls, the party also lost Zamfara and Rivers to the PDP.
According to projections, the party could lose more states and scheduled parliamentary bye-elections to the opposition if the crisis rocking it is not harmoniously settled in time. A situation, political analysts believe could mar the chances of the APC to produce Buhari’s successor in 2023.
But the greatest loser, they argue, will be Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. According to them, it would be almost impossible for him succeed Buhari if the crisis in the party and the ongoing vicious attacks against him are not curtailed.
Meanwhile, reactions have continued to trail the vicious attacks in recent times on the person of Tinubu.
Alpha Beta Consulting, in its reaction, said Apara attacked Tinubu to divert attention from his crimes for which he was removed in 2018.
In a reaction signed by its MD, Akin Doherty, the company said the uncorroborated allegations against Asiwaju Bola Tinubu by Dapo Apara, in particular, show that he is bent only on creating sensational headlines to deflect attention from his criminal activities.
Doherty, who succeeded Apara as MD in 2018, said there is “no single piece of evidence” of fraud or criminal activity “on the part of any of the alleged defendants”.
In the same vein, Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, blamed some renegades in the South West, particularly the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, for the problems in Yourubaland and the attacks on Tinubu.
According to Ojodu, our brother (Fayemi) was sent on assignment by outsiders and he has been executing the assignment.
“Fayemi is on an assignment to divide our South-West caucus and bring our party on its knees. Someone was quoted recently that there may be no APC after Buhari. The assignment is to destroy the APC from within.
“How will it feel that our Ekiti man who wants to be president in APC or vice president in PDP is unable to win an election convincingly in his state?
“Of course, there was a recent confession by one of the dramatis personae that he (Fayemi) didn’t support our party’s candidate, but backed PDP’s candidate in the recently conducted Edo State governorship election.
“If it is true that Tinubu wants to run for President, Fayemi should be carrying his banner considering what he did for him in life”, Ojodu stated.