Thursday, 22 September 2022 06:27

The N18bn dispute between Tinubu and ex-Alpha Beta MD Apara taken to court and EFCC settled. These are the terms of settlement

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A four-year dispute between Bola Tinubu, a frontline presidential candidate, and Oladapo Apara, former MD of a Lagos-based tax consulting agency, over N18bn ($41.8m) benefits and a separate allegation of fraud to the tune of N20bn ($46.5m) has been settled.

The development has also forced the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to drop a probe into the Lagos political heavyweight, The Africa Report can confirm.

Apara, who was the managing director of Alpha Beta Consulting, sued Tinubu for controlling the firm, orchestrating his sacking and withholding N18bn – the total sum of his share profit for the period he worked for the firm.

However, documents obtained by The Africa Report show that Apara has now withdrawn the suit after reaching an undisclosed settlement with the former governor of Lagos and Alpha Beta.

Alpha Beta, which has for the last 20 years held the exclusive rights to track, compute and reconcile internally generated revenue in Lagos State in return for a commission under a little-known arrangement, has been at the centre of a controversy for over a decade with Tinubu’s opponents claiming that he has owned the firm by proxy since 2002 when he was still governor.

Apara claimed the firm generated over N1.5trn ($3.48bn) for the Lagos State government between 2002 and 2018 and received a commission of about 10% on average.

In 2018, Apara wrote a petition to the EFCC, claiming that Tinubu owned the company by proxy. He also accused Alpha Beta of tax evasion to the tune of N100bn ($232.5m), but the company hit back saying Apara was removed for alleged fraud.

“While he was MD, Apara used his position to siphon huge sums of money from the company, including, but not limited to, fraudulently converting $5m; money allegedly used to pay for cloud based services that were eventually discovered to be worth less than $300,000,” it said.

In 2020, Apara sued Tinubu, Alpha Beta and his successor, Akin Doherty, before a Lagos State High Court.

In the writ of summons, Apara said as the head of the company, he began looking into its finances and he made many startling discoveries, such as mysterious transfers of over N20bn ($46.5m) in different currencies to several companies, including a payment of N1bn ($2.3m) to Vintage Press, publishers of The Nation newspaper, a company Tinubu has publicly admitted to owning.

Tinubu was furious that he [Apara] was looking into the company’s finances and ordered that he be demoted to deputy managing partner.

The former Alpha Beta boss said he realised that all the payments were sanctioned by the partners who were proxies of Tinubu. Apara claimed that these transactions were done without his knowledge.

He said: “N550m [$1.2m] payment to Ocean Trust Ltd vide payment instruction dated the 15/5/18 (h) N850m [$1.9m] payment to Ocean Trust Ltd vide payment instruction dated the 14/3/15; (i) N1bn ($2.3m) in Afkar printing Press together with Vintage Press Limited and Lagoon Press Limited in October 2017.”

Apara stated that Tinubu was furious that he was looking into the company’s finances and ordered that he be demoted to deputy managing partner. He said he refused to obey this order and this led to a feud between the both of them.

The former Alpha Beta boss said he was forcefully removed from office while Tinubu’s former Commissioner for Finance, Doherty, was named the new head of the company.

He averred that since his illegal removal, he had been denied his dividends as a founding partner of the company and asked the court to order full payment of his entitlements, which was about N18bn ($41.8m)

Secret settlement

After nearly two years of litigation, the respondents informed O.F Aigbokhaevbo, the trial judge, that they were ready to settle out of court. A final agreement was reached and endorsed by the judge in August, court documents show.

Although the exact amount that was paid as compensation was left out of the court papers, Apara stated that they had all reached an amicable settlement and he had relinquished all his six million shares and would abide by the terms as long as Tinubu also keeps to the terms of agreement.

“The 1st defendant [Alpha Beta] shall indemnify the claimant [Apara] against loss, liabilities or damages that the claimant may suffer by reason of the 2nd defendant [Tinubu] not executing, observing or performing the provisions of these terms of settlement,” the agreement signed by both parties said.

Alpha Beta also withdrew allegations of fraud it had levelled against Apara in the course of the dispute, adding that such allegations will no longer be brought up except there is a future discovery by an external auditor.

According to the document, all parties agreed that the execution and performance of the terms will not be presented or construed as any admission of any liability on the part of any of the parties except in respect of the performance of the terms and any obligation that arises.

Apara subsequently withdrew the case in court and asked the court to strike it out. “Application to withdraw this suit is allowed as prayed. This suit is hereby struck out,” the judge said.

EFCC drops probe

In a related development, sources at the EFCC told The Africa Report that the probe of Tinubu which was based on the petition written by Apara had also hit a brick wall.

An investigator at the agency says Apara had refused to come forward since submitting the petition three years ago and, as such, the case could not be properly investigated.

The official, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak on the case, said with Apara now settling the matter out of court, it would be nearly impossible to have him testify against Tinubu if the case were to be taken to court.

“Apara refused to come forward to defend the allegations he levelled against Tinubu and now that they’ve reached a secret settlement and non-disclosure, I think it’s safe to say that case is dead,” the EFCC official said.

An official spokesperson from EFCC was contacted by The Africa Report for this article.

Tinubu’s media team Campaign Spokespeople Dele Alake and Bayo Onanuga, were contacted for this article. Alake said he was ‘not aware’ of the deal.

 

The Africa Report