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Sanwo-Olu Increases Alpha Beta’s Monthly Payment To Fund Tinubu’s Presidential Election, Full Details

Sanwo-Olu Increases Alpha Beta’s Monthly Payment To Fund Tinubu’s Presidential Election, Full Details

Information reaching Naija News House says that Sanwo-Olu Increases Alpha Beta’s Monthly Payment To Fund Tinubu’s Presidential Election

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has boosted monthly financial allocation to Alpha Beta LLC from N800 million under his two immediate predecessors to N2.5 billion at present, as Bola Tinubu begins calling in favours towards his presidential objective next year.

State officials and financial records obtained by The Gazette detailed how Mr Sanwo-Olu started paying N2.5 billion to Alpha Beta — the controversial tax processor for the nation’s commercial capital — about a year after he assumed office in an arrangement officials said was aimed at warehousing funds for Mr Tinubu’s campaign.

Our findings suggest a marker of how Mr Tinubu still maintains a dreadful leverage over a state he last ran nearly two decades ago — and the stretch Mr Sanwo-Olu would cover to indulge the man largely credited with shooting him from political shadows to the centre stage.

Sanwo-Olu Increases Alpha Beta

Mr Tinubu became the first major contender to publicly disclose interest in leading the continent’s most populous and largest economy, an ambition everyday Nigerians had long suspected would be borne by the politician’s vessel of ill-gotten cash and unredeemed favours.

Open secret

Alpha Beta was incorporated in 2002 to handle computation, tracking and reconciliation of internally-generated revenue in Lagos. Mr Tinubu was governor at the time and the pliable state assembly set the firm’s monthly commission at 10 per cent of accrued revenue.

Mr Tinubu concluded his two terms as Lagos governor in 2007 and, shortly thereafter, his fingerprints started magnifying around Alpha Beta’s business. In 2010, Mr Tinubu’s alleged greed was blamed for a months-long confrontation with Tunde Fashola, his successor who had pushed back against arbitrary and exorbitant monthly payment to Alpha Beta.

As part of Mr Fashola’s efforts to curb Mr Tinubu’s excesses, Alpha Beta’s monthly payment since 2013 hovered around N800 million per month, according to financial records reviewed. Mr Fashola left office after two terms in 2015. He was succeeded by Akinwunmi Ambode, who also left the arrangement at N800 million per month throughout his four-year tenure.

Mr Tinubu continues to deflect questions about his interest in Alpha Beta, but behind the scenes funds transferred to the firm from Lagos government accounts have been directly traced to his family members, business interests and political cronies.

‘Tinubu Group of Companies’

As of early 2020, but no later than July, Mr Sanwo-Olu had increased Alpha Beta’s share of the state’s revenue to N2.5 billion to bolster Mr Tinubu’s edge in what political observers anticipate would be a hotly-contested race for the ruling party’s ticket, according to documents and officials.

Records said Alpha Beta received N2,345, 816, 266.122 and N2, 378, 277, 356. 55 into its UBA account number 1021477046 from Lagos government account on July 2, 2020, and again on July 24.

Similar amounts were paid into the firm’s bank accounts monthly throughout last year, The Gazette found, with taxes and other statutory deductions coming out of the N2.5 billion. The funds represent a N1.7 billion increase from the N800 million Mr Sanwo-Olu’s predecessors paid for nearly a decade.

The decision to raise Alpha Beta was settled in the wake of the pandemic in 2020, according to a senior civil servant familiar with the matter. The official said Messrs Sanwo-Olu and Tinubu concluded that it was more strategic to start stockpiling cash from early enough due to the uncertainties of the global health catastrophe.

“They have turned Lagos State and Alpha Beta into sister subsidiaries of Tinubu Group of Companies,” the official told The Gazette under anonymity to avoid reprimand for discussing secret state business without permission.

Alpha Beta, a company of about 71 personnel, has no capacity to legitimately earn billions every month, and should not be receiving funds well above its 10 percent commission from total tax receipts per month, the official said.

The official added that the Sanwo-Olu administration had no legal justification to unilaterally increase Alpha Beta’s payment, but did it anywhere because he was not expecting any backlash from Lagosians or the law enforcement.

‘No rate hikes’

Whereas Mr Tinubu only declared his interest in the presidential race two weeks ago, he had set efforts in motion well in advance. In November 2020, The Gazette was the first to report that the ruling party chieftain had quietly opened campaign headquarters in a 2,700 square metres Maitama property that once housed a private school.

Although Mr Tinubu initially denied The Gazette’s story, his office later owned up, but claimed it was set up by a few of his proteges. Mr Sanwo-Olu, a loyalist and political godson to Mr Tinubu, provided support towards the property, alongside other political associates of Mr Tinubu’s who have been supporting him as a way of appreciating his longstanding benevolence, two people familiar with the dealings said.

Mr Sanwo-Olu’s apparent use of public funds to underwrite Mr Tinubu’s campaign bolsters claims that Mr Tinubu chose him to replace Mr Ambode because he would acquiesce whenever necessary. Mr Ambode’s loyalists had said he fell out with Mr Tinubu because he did not succumb to the presidential aspirant’s desire to corner state resources.

Mr Sanwo-Olu has reportedly launched efforts to stand for re-election next year, and would be counting on Mr Tinubu’s support.

When reached for comments, Mr Tinubu did not confirm or deny pilfering Lagos funds for his presidential campaign through Alpha Beta, but strongly denied wielding control over Mr Sanwo-Olu or state resources.

“I am not His Excellency Jide Sanwo-Olu,” Mr Tinubu told The Gazette by telephone over the weekend. “I have no control over how state resources are allocated.”

Lagos information commissioner Gbenga Omotoso initially downplayed The Gazette’s findings as a rumour, despite being made aware of bank records in our possession. But Gboyega Akosile, the governor’s chief spokesman, later provided comments to The Gazette, admitting that Alpha Beta’s monthly payment might have shot up recently, but that it was not because the consultants’ billables were hiked.

“I don’t know where you got your figures,” Mr Akosile told The Gazette over the weekend. “But the revenue of the consultant is dependent on the revenue generated by the state.”

“The governor has not tampered with the rate of Alpha Beta,” the spokesman added. “It is a fallacious claim that the governor has increased revenues accruable to Alpha Beta. The governor is a financial expert and he understands the nitty-gritty of finance and will not tamper with such arrangements.”

When reached for comments, Alpha Beta chairman Tunde Badejo told The Gazette he was in a meeting and will call back with a response to our enquiries. He failed to do so and ducked subsequent attempts to reach him.

‘Competent ambition’

As Mr Tinubu’s antecedents writ large over his presidential aspiration, the secretive system he imposed to shield himself and anointed successors from accountability has earned him more criticism from his political rivals. Despite being Nigeria’s preeminent urban settlement with over 15 million people, Lagos has continued to reject calls to open its financial records to public scrutiny.

The state has been leading a fight to quash the 2011 Freedom of Information Act as part of efforts to perpetuate opaque public accounting method that has allowed Mr Tinubu to divert state funds to his pocket with little resistance from taxpayers and political opposition.

Olabode George, a top Lagos politician of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, condemned the presidential ambition of Mr Tinubu in a recent interview, cautioning Nigerians against voting the APC chieftain.

Mr Tinubu “will take the country to the gutters,” Mr George said in the interview with Vanguard.

In a 2020 interview with Arise TV, Mr George also faulted Alpha-Beta’s collection of internally generated revenue in Lagos, saying that there were leakages in the state government’s purse that should be blocked.

“What is the essence of the AlphaBeta? Where else in the world would you have an inland revenue service who have their own staff who are supposed to go out and collect the fees, but you have an independent company to be supposedly collecting the internally generated revenue from our state?” Mr George said.

Orji Kalu, a senator of Mr Tinubu’s ruling party, recently said the presidential aspiration of the former Lagos governor was unreasonable and an idea “dead on arrival.”

But Mr Tinubu maintained that he has requisite competence to see through his ambition.

“I have the competence, vision, and capacity to build on the foundation of the president,” he said after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on January 10. Mr Tinubu would likely face an ardent primary challenge in Yemi Osinbajo, the incumbent vice-president once seen as the shining light amongst his political proteges.

Sanwo-Olu Increases Alpha Beta

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