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Pandora Papers: Inside the secret deal between Sambo Dasuki’s family and a billionaire govt. contractor


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Nicholas IBEKWE and Adebayo HASSAN 

During the 37 months that Mr Dasuki lasted as NSA, Mr Adesanya had at least two knotty multibillion-dollar issues to resolve with the Nigerian government. 

SOMETIME in 2013, Nigerian multi-billionaire businessman, Leno Adesanya, approached a secrecy seller in the British Virgin Islands, Trident Trust Company Limited, to help family members of Sambo Dasuki, the National Security Adviser at the time, to register a shell company, Hydropower Investments Limited.

In the documentation submitted for the company’s incorporation, Mr Adesanya indicated that Hydropower Investment was set up to own real estate and investment portfolios.

The businessman also indicated that the company would, on behalf of the Dasuki family, hold 1.5 million shares in Sino Africa (Nigeria) Limited, a 19-year old company that has him (Adesanya) and a certain Uche Nwokedi as directors.


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Hydropower Investments, company documents also showed, will also hold for the Dasukis 10 million shares in Sunrise Power & Transmission (Nigeria) Co. Limited, a company that is locked in a long-drawn dispute with the Nigerian government over the Mambilla power project. The legal dispute is stalling the key funding from the Chinese EXIM Bank to execute the Mambilla project, an ambitious electricity generation infrastructure considered key to tackling Nigeria’s long-standing power sector crisis.

The shell company, Hydropower Investments, was registered on November 14, 2013, with Mr Adesanya and Abubakar Atiku Dasuki, a son of a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, as directors.

But while Mr Adesanya serves as the face of the company and uses his Lagos home as the contact address for the offshore firm, he holds no single share. The shareholders and ultimate beneficial owners of the company are Abubakar Atiku Dasuki, (17,000 shares), Hassan Sultan Dasuki (16,500 shares) and Asmau Iman Dasuki (16,500 shares). Abubakar was 31 years old at the time the company was established while Hassan and Asmau were 18.

Leno Adesanya
A cropped photo of Leno Adesanya
Photo Credit: Arik Air/Facebook
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The three shareholders are children of former NSA Dasuki, one of the most powerful figures in Nigeria at the time the company was incorporated, and awarded a combined 11.5million shares in Mr Adesanya’s companies — Sunrise and Sino Africa.

There is no evidence that Mr Dasuki or his children paid for the shares. When the registration agent, Trident Trust Company, sought to know how the shareholders sourced the funds with which they planned to acquire the assets, Mr Adesanya simply provided a vague response, telling them the assets would be “carried interest through a loan to be arranged by the sponsor (Leno Adesanya) of the project.”

The uncovering of Mr Adesanya’s offshore link with the Dasuki family came from Pandora Papers, a trove of 11.9 million leaked confidential records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ.

The ICIJ coordinated a team of 617 journalists from 150 news outlets, including PREMIUM TIMES, who spent two years poring through the leaked records, tracking down sources, and digging into court files and other public records from dozens of countries. It is the biggest collaboration of investigative journalists – from 117 countries and territories – in history.

The leaked records came from 14 offshore services firms from around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore nooks for clients like the Adesanyas and Dasukis, who seek to shroud their financial activities, often suspicious, in secrecy.

It remains unclear why Mr Adesanya would provide a loan to buy several million shares from his own companies in favour of the children of one of the country’s most powerful political personalities at the time.

Mr Adesanya. speaking through his representative, said he derived no favours from Mr Dasuki and added that “the children wanted to start doing business and they were advised by me to set up an offshore company for discretionary purposes.”

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Illicit finance experts said roundabout schemes like that are sometimes designed to funnel bribes to compromised officials or to return favours already received or expected to come.

PREMIUM TIMES has no evidence that that was the case here, although Mr Dasuki was a key political officeholder in Nigeria at a time two of Mr Adesanya’s companies were seeking major favours from the Nigerian government.

Responding to an inquiry from PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Dasuki said, through a representative, he did not ask Mr Adesanya to register the company for his children. He said businesspeople sometimes render unsolicited favours to government officials even without their knowledge.

He added that, moreover, his children were adults, who could make business decisions on their own.

Businessman Adesanya and a top Secret

However, Mr Adesanya appeared to have strategised hard to keep his business relationship with the Dasukis a top secret. For one, although the share transfer transaction was done about eight years ago, the businessman is yet to file documents at the Corporate Affairs Commission reflecting the new ownership structures of both Sunrise Power and Sino Africa. That has left the CAC in the dark about the changes.

Mr Adesanya has also continued to be the face of Hydropower Investments, remaining the main liaison between the registration agent and the company, and effectively shielding the Dasukis from being apparent in the running of the firm. His Lagos home is the main contact address of the company and his email contact is the official email address listed for the company.

Pandora Papers
Pandora Papers

The businessman left instructions with Trident Trust to hold on to all documents related to the company and that on no condition should the firm’s documents or correspondences be couriered to Nigeria, ostensibly so they are not intercepted by authorities.

In what also appeared a strategy to conceal the identity of the Dasuki kids, Mr Adesanya, in correspondences with Trident Trust, kept referring to them as his cousins. When he was asked to provide proof of address for the three shareholders, the businessman falsely claimed the Dasukis lived with him in his Lagos address and then provided a notarized document to back the claim.

Adesanya, Dasuki and multi-billion issues with government

Sambo Dasuki, a retired army colonel and father of the three Hydropower Investments shareholders, was appointed national security adviser on June 22, 2012, by then-President Goodluck Jonathan.

He remained in that influential position until July 2015, months after Mr Jonathan lost reelection when he was removed by President Muhammadu Buhari. While in office, Mr. Dasuki was immensely powerful, enjoyed unrestricted access to the presidential villa, and consistently had the president’s ears.

Those who related with Mr Dasuki during his term in office said he was mostly genial and approachable with a consistent desire to solve the problems, official and unofficial, of anyone able to reach him.

During the 37 months that Mr Dasuki lasted as NSA, Mr Adesanya had at least two knotty multibillion-dollar issues to resolve with the Nigerian government.

For about 20 years before the Jonathan government took charge, a business dispute had arisen between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Lutin Investments Limited, a BVI company owned by Mr Adesanya and his family, over a contract for the supply of ocean vessels with equipment for the storage of petroleum products and related activities.

A Lutin Resolution

In 1993, Lutin and the NNPC submitted the dispute to international arbitration, which, in May 2007, ruled in favour of Lutin. The arbitrator ordered the NNPC to pay Lutin damages in the amount of $55,281,109, plus 10 per cent compound interest; £20,480, plus 10 per cent compound interest, and N4,692,930, plus 21 per cent compound interest. The arbitrator added that all interest obligations must begin to accrue from July 7, 1993.

Mr Adesanya then approached the French Tribunal de Grande Instance on July 6, 2007, for recognition of the arbitration award. He succeeded. The NNPC then appealed to the Paris Court of Appeal. But on December 2, 2014, the court affirmed the decision of the Tribunal de Grande Instance.

However, even before the Paris Court of Appeal gave its verdict, Mr Adesanya had begun to negotiate with the Jonathan-led government (in which Mr Dasuki was a key player) for the payment of the arbitral award which had then accrued to $477 million.

In the end, the administration paid him about $55.3 million as full and final settlement, although he later protested, saying he did not obtain the consent of his board before signing the agreement with the NNPC.

A chunk of Sunrise Power 

The second business logjam that Mr Adesanya battled to resolve during the Jonathan administration concerned the $6billion Mambilla power project which was awarded to his company, Sunrise Powers and Transmission Company Limited, but which later became the subject of an intense business dispute and power play.

Mambilla power project
Mambilla power project
Photo Credit: Premium Times

The Mambilla power project, first conceived in the 1970s and expected to produce 3,050 megawatts of electricity, has stalled owing to controversies surrounding the award of the contract to Sunrise Power.

The award was sequel to a 2003 agreement under the Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration to construct the 3,050MW plant in Mambilla, Taraba State, on a build, operate and transfer basis.

The Jonathan government, in which Mr Dasuki played a prominent role, worked very hard to resolve the logjam. For instance, in 2012, the then president directed the Ministry of Power to fast-track amicable resolution of the dispute arising from multiple lawsuits.

The ministry then initiated discussions with the contending contracting partners. The discussions and negotiations culminated in the execution of a General Project Execution Agreement between the government, Mr Adesanya’s Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited (SPTCL) and Sinohydro Corporation of China on November 23, 2012.

In fact, things moved so fast that in January 2015, the federal ministry of power issued an award letter to Sinohydro Corporation, CGGC of China and Sunrise Power, for the execution of the project, with Sunrise as the local content partner for the project.

It is unclear if Mr Dasuki offered Mr Adesanya and his company help in any way. But it was within that period – November 2013 – that Mr Adesanya discreetly incorporated Hydropower Investments for the Dasukis and then awarded them 10 million shares in Sunrise Power and another 1.5 million shares in another of his companies — Sino Africa.

However, after the Jonathan government left office, the legal tussle returned and has remained unresolved, again stalling the execution of the Mambilla project.

Dasuki, Adesanya and EFCC

Soon after the end of the Jonathan administration, the anti-graft agency, EFCC, launched an investigation into a bribery scheme, involving indicted former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, some bank chiefs, and oil tycoons. Those investigated included Mr Adesanya and Benedict Peters, managing director of Aiteo Group, were accused of bribing officials of the electoral body INEC with an estimated $115 (23 billion naira at the prevailing rate) to influence the 2015 elections.

In addition to the cash brought by Ms Madueke, companies belonging to Mr Adesanya and Mr Peters were said to have contributed to the slush fund.

Some INEC officials were charged and a number of them have been convicted and jailed. Ms Madueke was also charged but she shunned her trial.

Mr Dasuki, too, was arrested in December 2015 by the State Security Service over allegations he diverted 2.1 billion dollars security funds. The Buhari government repeatedly cited national security concerns for Mr Dasuki’s continued detention despite courts ordering his release. The SSS eventually released Mr Dasuki in December 2019.

*This investigative report was first published by PREMIUM TIMES, an editorial partner to The ICIR. We have its permission to publish the report

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