President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the arrest of a key man in the panel investigating the mismanagement of public funds meant for the war against Boko Haram after receiving damning reports that he was himself involved in alleged money laundering and illegal possession of firearms.
Security and presidency sources told PT that Umar was arrested last week as operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) raided his Abuja home.
Those familiar with the matter said before moving against the retired officer, the Director General of the SSS, Lawal Daura, met with Buhari where he tabled reports suggesting that the panel member had been busy using the name of the president and other top officials of the administration to intimidate, extort and blackmail individuals and businesses.
“The president became worried and jittery when he was confronted with the way a man he trusted had been behaving,” a presidency source said. “So he ordered that he should be picked up while the allegations against him are thoroughly investigated.”
Security sources said that documents seized from Mr. Umar’s residence during a raid on June 19 included classified documents from the president’s office, details of government transactions from the Central Bank of Nigeria, and details of bank transactions belonging to the office of the NSA.
A document containing details of disbursements made to the Nigerian armed forces and security agencies was also recovered during the raid.
Surprisingly, he retired into enormous wealth, officials involved in the investigations said. Currently, he has six companies, including a private jet company with a fleet size of 10 aircraft, officials said.
Security sources also said he is also one of Abuja’s biggest property owners.
“Many top government functionaries live in his houses in Abuja,” a source said. “He also has properties in Dubai and London.”
Ally or double agent?
Umar became a close ally of President Buhari shortly after the 2015 elections.
In fact, “he suggested most members of the panel,” another presidential disclosed.
Investigators said Umar’s swift rise to relevance in President Buhari’s administration was beginning to raised concerns regarding whether the new administration failed to conduct a thorough background check on him, or simply ignored the man’s past.
Officials said Mr. Umar was one of the first military officers to be arrested by the EFCC just years after the anti-graft agency was established, during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
He was detained for salary and procurement fraud in the Air Force, but the matter was later handed over to the military for trial, PT gathered from those familiar with the matter.
The sources said Umar was compelled to make refunds, and the matter was brushed aside allowing the man to return to the force.
Multiple officials told PT that Umar’s stupendous wealth has always confounded several of his colleagues.
“As far back as 20 years ago, when his annual salary couldn’t afford a car, Mr. Umar had a private jet,” one source said.
Married to the daughter of a former Nigerian petroleum minister, Rilwan Lukman, Mr. Umar ran local and international businesses while he served in the Nigerian Air Force, one source said.
According to court documents seen by PT, Umar carried out his recent deals in cash only.
Despite owning a private jet company and multiple real estates across the world, the total amount traced to his bank accounts was only N165million.
But the value of currencies evacuated from one of his homes during the raid was at least N300million.
Security officials believe he received the cash payments – in breach of the money laundering law.
Investigators are also trying to determine if the cash were proceeds of illicit deals and influence peddling.
Those close to claim that part of the cash taken from Mr. Umar’s home were payments for services rendered by his private jet company, Easy Jet Integrated Services Limited – from two cargo flights from Nairobi to Houston and Nairobi to Hong Kong.
Investigators working to verify the claims
As of Monday, Umar was still held at the State Security Service detention centre in Abuja as security officials continued with investigations into the matter.
The scope of his case is so serious that it’s now under the National Security Adviser.