The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has stepped up its activities by calling to account some former governors alleged to have corruptly enriched themselves with state funds
| By Olu Ojewale | Jun 29, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, appears to have woken up from its slumber. In the last three weeks, the operatives of the Commission have stepped up its investigations into cases of alleged corrupt enrichment and embezzlement levelled against some former governors.
On Thursday, June 17, it was the turn of Ihedi Ohakim, a former Imo State governor, who was arrested by operatives of the EFCC. Ohakim had been invited to visit the EFCC office in Abuja on Wednesday, to answer questions on allegations of fraud perpetuated by him while in office, but he did not show as expected.
Irked by the development, operatives of the anti-graft agency invaded his residence in Asokoro, Abuja where he was arrested on Thursday morning. Thereafter, the former governor was taken to the EFCC headquarters where he was interrogated for many hours over allegations of corruption and embezzlement.
Sources at the EFCC said that the former governor was arrested when he refused to honour the commission’s invitation. “We need to present some of the statements and evidence at our disposal to Ohakim to respond to,” a source said.
Besides, he said some of the allegations against Ohakim were that he used government funds to acquire property in Abuja while in office. He was later released around 4.30pm and is expected to be summoned soon to answer more questions and provide clarifications.
Another guest of the EFCC of the day was Sule Lamido, immediate past governor of Jigawa State. Lamido did not allow the commission to arrest him before honouring its invitation. He was at the EFCC headquarters on Thursday, June 17, to answer questions on allegations of money laundering, embezzlement and funds misappropriation involving him and his children.
Sources said Lamido was quizzed on N1.3 billion contract awarded while he was in office and the favouring of some of his children with juicy contracts. He was also questioned on the money laundering allegations against some of his children.
“Allegations against Lamido have to do with alleged mismanagement of funds, money laundering and abuse of office. We are looking into the accounts of all the companies where Lamido has some stake,” a source said.
Confirming the presence of the two former governors at the EFCC headquarters, Abuja, Wilson Uwujaren, head, media and publicity of the EFCC, said: “I confirm the arrest of Ohakim and the appearance of Lamido before our team.”
He said Ohakim was arrested and quizzed in respect of an investigation into corrupt enrichment by the former governor of Imo State between 2007 and 2011. “Ohakim was released and allowed to go, we will call him whenever we need him,” Uwujaren said.
But in a statement by Emmanuel Dike, Ohakim’s special assistant on media, the former governor denied evading arrest. The statement said: “The attention of His Excellency, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, has been drawn to media reports to the effect that he was evading an invitation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in connection with a recent petition against him by a group that goes by the name, Alliance for Good Governance. Dr. Ohakim wishes to state that there is no iota of truth in the reports because he had formally communicated his inability to honour the agency’s invitation to it, attributing the misinformation to bridge in communication.
“Dr. Ohakim got wind of the invitation while he was away on a medical trip in the United Kingdom and upon return to the country, wrote the agency to explain why he could not meet their earlier date. For reasons that are not immediately known, however, the agency did not reply this letter.
“On Wednesday June 17, Dr. Ohakim again wrote to the Commission seeking for a new date in July on medical grounds. The letter was duly acknowledge by the agency the same day but to his greatest surprise, officials of the agency stormed his residence in Asokoro, Abuja, the following morning Thursday, June 18, 2015, with press photographers and television camera men.
“Dr. Ohakim wishes to state that he has no reason, whatsoever, to evade the agency because he is not only a law-abiding senior citizen of Nigeria but also has no skeleton in his cupboard, having been investigated before by the commission on the same issue and that he is quite confident that nothing incriminating will be found against him this time around.”
On Tuesday, June 16, it was Martin Elechi, an immediate past governor of Ebonyi State, who answered the invitation of the anti-graft agency. Elechi arrived at the commission’s office in Abuja at 10 a.m. on Tuesday following an invitation sent by the EFCC two weeks ago.
But the former governor could not honour the invitation immediately and asked his lawyer to inform the commission that he would come in that day.
On January 29, the EFCC had also quizzed Elechi Nnanna Elechi, his son on allegations of fraud. The younger Elechi was alleged to be a front for the family’s company, which collected government contracts but failed to execute any of them. Governor Elechi who left office on May 29, after his second term, could not face the anti-graft agency earlier since he had constitutional immunity against prosecution.
Murtala Nyako, former governor of Adamawa State, turned himself in on Monday, June 1, when he returned from a self-imposed exile. Nyako surrendered himself to the commission on Monday and was grilled by operatives for eight hours and thirty minutes. The commission resumed the interrogation on Tuesday with Nyako’s arrival at the EFCC at 10am. He was grilled for another eight hours.
Nyako was alleged to have siphoned more than N15billion from the Adamawa State treasury while he was the governor. The anti-graft agency had previously declared him and Abdul Aziz, his son, wanted following their alleged refusal to honour many invitations from the commission.
Subsequently, his son was arrested in Gombe State on February 14, by the EFCC operatives.
The commission insisted that the former governor who was removed from office on July 15, 2014, by the Adamawa State House of Assembly over alleged gross misconduct, used his son and other senior officials of the state government to loot public funds.
A federal high court on Sunday, June 14, refused to stop the EFCC from arresting Nyako for his alleged siphoning of more than N15billion from the state’s treasury.
Encouraged by these new arrests, Nigerians have been hailing the EFCC for its new found vigour to tackle corruption in the country. Onyekachi Ubani, a lawyer and human rights activist, said it was a good development. “If this is sustained our politicians and civil servants will think twice before siphoning our commonwealth and resources,” he said.