Senator Bassey Albert, Let’s go to London (part 1)

Senator Bassey Albert, Let’s go to London (part 1)

Abasifreke Effiong

In the past few days, truth and deceit have been on trial in the case of corruption, money laundering, and fraud, levelled against Bassey Albert, current senator representing Uyo senatorial district, by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.

This piece is the first in a series dedicated to ensure that the publics have every detail needed for them to know the truth in the unfolding event. This first part has two segments- the background to the news perspectives on the issue, and, the main issue.

Background to the news perspectives

On Monday, 7 May, 2018, at 1:16p.m., Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) ran a news snippet on its scrollbar about Senator Bassey Albert. The snippet read, “President Buhari moves against looting of public funds, as Senator Albert Akpan faces prosecution and ban by U.K government”. The news brief was re- presented between 8:30p.m. – 8:48p.m, that same day.

As a journalist, I have an obligation to make news from sources and important events that are of public interest. A report on the network of the NTA, a federal government owned medium, should give any serious mindedness journalist a thought. The credibility of NTA which has remained “the authentic voice of the Nigerian government”, from 1977 to date, is not in doubt. For these reasons, I culled the report to my timeline on Facebook and clearly made attribution to the source of the news, NTAi.

Few minutes after the report dropped, Anny Micheal, one of the “online conversationalists”,- as the respected media icon, Ray Ekpu calls them – working for Senator Bassey Albert dismissed the report as fake. He did not give any cogent reason for his outburst. His response as seen on Facebook was that I “generated a fake story…[that] the news on NTA scroll bar [was] a paid news alert by Abasifreke Effiong’s pay masters”. Beyond his very ill response which was a deliberate deceit intended to divert public attention from the subject matter; the senator’s aide bullied other journalists with screaming profanities because they insisted that NTAi carried the report. Anny’s aim was to ensure that the public dismisses the report as a hoax.

His boss, Senator Bassey Albert, in similar brashness attempted to browbeat anyone who dared to believe or ask questions about the investigation. Bassey reportedly told, Mr. Emmanuel Sam, the publisher of The Guide newspaper, on phone that NTAi never carried such a story. Again, he dismissed that the story which The Mail newspaper carried on its front page was false. “Falsehood will always come tumbling down like a pack of cards”, Bassey wrote against The Mail newspaper on his timeline.

Barely 24 hours after Bassey and his team accused me and other journalists in the State of generating a fake story, he commissioned his Attorneys to write to NTA demanding retraction and apology over the publication.

In the letter dated May 9, signed by Barr. Emmanuel Ekong, for Solomon Umoh and Co., of Sheltered chambers, Wuse ll, Abuja; Bassey’s lawyers claimed that NTA “set up a story” on Monday, May 7, which has exposed their client “to great pain… [and] reduced him in the estimation of right thinking members of society”.

It is instructive to take three important notes here. One, the letter by Bassey’s Attorneys proved that I did not generate the story. Two, Bassey accused NTA of setting up the story. Three, Bassey has sought an apology from NTA, but he and his team have not thought it right to apologise to me, The Guide, and The Mail newspapers, they maligned and vilified.

Nevertheless, it would be instructive at this point to datestamp events succeeding Bassey’s petition to NTA on May 9.

On Thursday, May 10, Bassey and his team celebrated that NTA has apologised over the story. Anny Micheal, Bassey’s aide wrote, “NTA retracts fake news on OBA”. He posted that with a video clip with a news scroll which read, “Information circulated in the media that Sen. Bassey Albert Akpan representing Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) Senatorial District from Akwa Ibom State is barred from entering the U.K. and is under investigation is totally untrue and a calculated attempt to tarnish the good image of the distinguished lawmaker”.

Every journalist worth his onions knows what a retraction is. The British English dictionary defines retraction as a “statement which effects the withdrawal of an earlier assertion, and concedes that the earlier assertion was in error”. From this definition, there is no concession that what Bassey’s team celebrated as a retraction was the position of NTA.

Let me remind Bassey, in case he has forgotten that on Friday, May 11, rather than respond to the threats from his lawyers, NTA went full blast in its 9p.m. bulletin reading the full content of the “Exclusion Order” against him, sent to Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd, Home Office Secretary, United Kingdom, by Okoi Obono-Obla, the Chairman, Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property and the Special Assistant on Prosecution to the President.

How possible would it have been for NTA to retract a story on May 10, then the next day, May 11, it went back and presented an in-depth report upholding the earlier assertion? There is no logical reason to believe so. Thus, it will remain that NTA did not retract the story. What Bassey’s team flaunted was a paid report. More so, let me note here that the 48 hours Bassey’s lawyers gave NTA to retract the story and apologise to him have elapsed. I am still waiting!

Let me also bring to Bassey’s notice that on Sunday, 13 May, Radio Nigeria in its network news at 12p.m. and 4.p.m. broadcast reported that he is under investigation. In that report, Chief Idorenyin Jascot, coordinator of Akwa Ibom transparency and accountability group, was called up in the news insert. Idorenyin, who said he is an elder statesman of the PDP, noted that the group has “seen that the man called Bassey Albert has amassed wealth more than anyone can imagine”.

The main issues

Senator Bassey Albert has serious fraud issues hanging on his neck. The report in the media is not fake as the senator wants the public to think.

Bassey is “currently under investigation in Nigeria for illicit acquisition of assets and money laundering”, chairman of the special presidential investigation panel for the recovery of public property, Okoi Obono-Obla says in a letter.

The letter referenced SPIP/IHOS/2018/Vol.1/1, a copy of which I have obtained from the office of the Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Federal Ministry of Justice, Shehu Shagari, Way, Maitama, Abuja; addressed to Amber Rudd, The Home Office Secretary, 2, Marsham Street, SW1 4DF, London, United Kingdom; the federal government wants the U.K. government to freeze bank accounts, and assets of Bassey and companies associated with him.

“All bank accounts and assets of Mr. Bassey Albert Akpan and companies associated with him be frozen…the fraudulent acts of Mr. Bassey Albert Akpan include money laundering activities, assets stealing, forgery, tax evasion and extortion”, the letter reads.

Bassey, the presidential panel claimed had in his asset declaration form dated 8th August 2015 disclosed that he has landed properties in London which he acquired through Barclays Bank of London financed mortgage totalling more than £1million (one million pounds).

However, the panel says the circumstances under which Bassey acquired the properties are suspicious because his legitimate earnings are far below the worth of the assets he declared. Bassey has not responded to this concern. But his Attorneys said in a letter to NTA that Bassey “is not under any investigation whatsoever”. Bassey had put up a shifty defence on Facebook, that “all [his] assets since inception of public office in 2007 were properly declared with the appropriate authority”. This defence has not addressed the main question in this matter.

Buying properties in the U.K is not a big deal. However, as a journalist and Bassey’s constituent, I have a few posers for Bassey. Dear Senator Bassey, the last time I checked your record, unlike the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki who also holds a British citizenship, there was no document showing that you hold a dual citizenship status.

Hence, which national insurance number and payslip did you use to get the loan to acquire the properties? What is your immigration status? What did you use as collateral for the facility? These questions need Bassey’s personal response. I do not expect a shifty defence or any form of parrying on this.

I have sought expert opinion on the procedures for obtaining such a facility in the U.K. and the response questions the legality and integrity of Bassey’s transactions. Oluwole Adesina, a Nigerian born U.K based lawyer posited that Bassey must have used “crook lawyers” to acquire those properties.

“I can tell you with authority that Barclays bank or any U.K. bank will never ever lend you money to buy property in U.K. unless you have status, National insurance number and payslip or business account. That guy used crook lawyers to buy those properties outright”.

Oluwole continued, “This senator is stupid and daft. I think it is better for him to keep quiet than to destroy his defence. His lawyer and accountant would be in big trouble if the Home Office investigates how he bought the property”.

Dear Senator Bassey, I entreat you that you and I write the part two of this series in Trafalgar square or Westminster, London.

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