IGBO secessionist group the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob) has accused Nigeria’s federal government of being behind the recent travails of Air Peace chairman Allen Onyema who has been declared wanted in the US for money laundering.
Last week, the US Department of Justice posted allegations on its website that Mr Onyema was guilty of laundering money between Nigeria and the US. It also added that Air Peace’s head of administration and finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, has also been charged with bank fraud and committing aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.
Mr Onyema, who recently received plaudits for flying stranded Nigerians home from South Africa in the face of xenophobic attacks, is accused of being involved in bank fraud and money laundering. According to US prosecutors, he moved more than $20m from Nigeria through US bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.
However, Mr Allen has dismissed the charges, saying all monies transferred to the US went through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), adding that the allegations were false and were in no way in line with his character as a person and as a business man. Massob leader Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, has added that the probe is not only a witch-hunt against Mr Onyema but a persecution against the Igbo race.
Speaking while reacting to plan by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to open a probe against Mr Onyema and the recent call by President Muhammadu Buhari’s special assistant, Loretta Onochie asking that he face his charges in the US. Chief Uwazuruike said that Ms Onochie spoke the mind of the presidency but warned that Igbos will rise against any plan to humiliate Mr Onyema.
Chief Uwazuruike added: “There are lots of prominent people in this country whom the civil society organisations have even petitioned the EFCC against over alleged money laundering and the commission has not probed them.”
According to Chief Uwazuruike, who is also the leader of the Biafran Independent Movement, the probe was masterminded by the federal government but added that it will be heavily resisted by Igbos. On Saturday, the EFCC set up a special panel to probe the allegation of $44.9m wire fraud and money laundering against Mr Onyema.
He added: “I am an Igbo and it is my responsibility to defend Igbos which Mr Onyema is one of them and I tell you that I have all is takes to resist the federal government from persecuting my people. We have been pushed to the wall by the federal government and Mr Onyema’s case will prove a point, so he should not be intimidated and must remain firm.”