Following the reopening of the investigation into the stalled N772bn fraud cases against some former state governors by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigerians have asked the anti-graft agency to ensure the prosecution of the individuals involved in the alleged looting of the public funds.
Civil Society groups, lawyers, and other concerned citizens in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Sunday, said the EFCC must recover the N772bn from the ex-governors and former ministers.
The EFCC had reopened the money laundering cases against 13 former governors and some former ministers.
Findings revealed the amount at stake in the high-profile cases involving the former governors and ex-ministers was not less than N772.2bn.
However, the anti-graft agency is currently investigating the N81.6bn that was allegedly looted in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
Another $2.2bn was alleged to have gone missing through money laundering, fund diversion, and misappropriation in recent times.
The $2.2bn was allegedly diverted by a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki; late media mogul, Raymond Dokpesi; former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa; and former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda, and others.
The presidential committee that investigated arms procurement under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration said about $2.2bn was diverted for purposes other than arms procurement.
Other persons under EFCC probe include former Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi; former Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle; two former Enugu State governors, Chimaroke Nnamani and Sullivan Chime; former Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Adamu; former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido, ex-Akwa Ibom Governor and current Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and many others.
Former Governor Lamido, when contacted, “My case had been tried and disposed of.”
Esme Eyiboh, the Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, said there was no document to that effect from the anti-graft agency.
He stated, “You know the principle of law is very clear on that. Whoever alleges must prove. So if that is what EFCC has said, then I need to see a document to that effect.
“If the EFCC said that is what they want to do, what reply do you want then? If the EFCC had made a public statement or public communication to that effect, well maybe I would have contributed to it. But now there is nothing I can base my reaction on.”
All efforts to get the former Nasarawa State Governor and immediate past National Chairman of the APC, Adamu Abdullahi, former Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji, and former Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal did not yield results as they could not be reached on the phone.
Commenting on the development, the Deputy Director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Kolawole Oluwadare, simply said, “Yes, I commend the EFCC for reviving the fraud cases.”
When asked if the EFCC should insist that the ex-govs account for the money, Oluwadare noted, “The EFCC is within its constitutional and statutory mandates to investigate any Nigerian whether public or private for any infraction of the law including cases of corruption.
“However, it is the court that determines the culpability of these individuals following investigations by the EFCC and the arraignment before the court.
“Just because the EFCC is investigating does not mean that the ex-governors are culpable and even if the EFCC concludes the investigations and brings it before the court; that is not conclusive because it is the court that determines the culpability.
“If the court finds them culpable, then the law should run its course which includes recovering the money.’’
The Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani, lauded the EFCC for re-opening the probe, promising to work with the anti-graft agencies to expose corrupt officials.
“Without the EFCC and the ICPC, Nigeria would have been in bigger trouble. So, the efforts of these agencies are helping to sanitise Nigeria even though the government has not demonstrated its intention to go after any individual accused of corruption,’’ he said.
Social activist and lawyer, Victor Giwa said, “Nigeria is broke any attempt to recover our looted funds is a welcome development. This money is still with these people, they must be recovered.”
- Continued on www.punchng.com
A lawyer, Olamilekan Joseph, said the EFCC must avoid the mistakes of the past to make headway.
He said, “Given the instances of poorly conducted cases and investigations carried out against these persons by the EFCC and the general lack of convictions despite the availability of overwhelming evidence against these ex-officials, the commission must avoid these if they want to get something out of these cases.”
Human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, said Nigerians were only interested in results and not rhetoric, adding that the commission should simply file criminal charges against the ex-governors if they are serious.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party described the plan to recover looted funds from the former governors as a political move to victimize the members of the opposition party.
The PDP Deputy National Youth Leader, Timothy Osadolor in an Interview with The PUNCH, on Sunday, alleged that the APC-led Federal Government lacked the character and competence to carry out a thorough and fair investigation without a political undertone.
Osadolor challenged the EFCC to go after the Senate President, Akpabio, for his alleged involvement in money laundering during his tenure as Akwa Ibom State governor, adding that Nigerians would take them seriously if they did.
The PDP Deputy National Youth Leader alleged the exercise was in the interest of APC, geared towards power consolidation and coercing members of the opposition parties into becoming members of the ruling party.
He continued, “We have seen people defect to APC because of EFCC cases hanging around them. So there is a political undertone in this and it is not welcome. And because of that, we ask them to forget about what they are doing and concentrate on the APC ministers who are looting public funds.’’
However, the APC Director of Publicity, Bala Ibrahim, countered the PDP and urged the EFCC to do anything within the confines of the law to recover the stolen funds.
He pointed out that the EFCC’s decision was in line with the vision of President Bola Tinubu’s administration.
Ibrahim said, “You know, the President when he took office, he made a promise that he is going to pay attention to certain areas in his effort to revitalise Nigeria. And one of the areas he mentioned is the fight against corruption. If you look at what he has commenced, it shows there is intent and wherewithal to do that.
“So, if the EFCC now said they are going to revisit some corruption cases against former governors, and if they feel there is a need to bar them from travelling they should do it and stop them from escaping, as long as it is done within the ambit of the law.
“I don’t see anything wrong with that, after all, a suspect is innocent until he is proven otherwise. So, the EFCC should in line with Nigerian law do whatever they need to do to recover all funds.’’
On the allegation by the PDP that the plot was to victimise the members of the opposition political parties and coerce them to join the APC, Ibrahim described President Tinubu’s administration as the most tolerant and transparent.
He said, “I think they need to go back to history. The EFCC is not the making of this government, neither is it the making of the APC, it is the making of the PDP. And if they are now accusing the APC of using EFCC to witch hunt, then it means they had an interior move when they formed EFCC.
“This government has shown everything that is supposed to be in tandem with transparency and respect for the rule of law. There has not been anyone who has been witch-hunted or anyone that can say is coerced to go against his political will or interest by this government.
“This is the first government since the advent of democracy in Nigeria that has given a strong position to card-carrying members of the opposition without asking them to change their party.
“So, it is just the imagination of the PDP; maybe that is what they have in mind or what they have been doing. Now that the mat is pulled off under their feet, they are crying foul.”
But an X user, Stanford Itua @stfditua, urged Nigerians to support the anti-graft agency by supplying credible evidence that will help the case.
“It is not an easy task for the EFCC. They (the governors) will fight back. Nigerians must support the EFCC in this fight by coming forward if they have any credible evidence that will help them.
Well done the EFCC”, he said.
Another user, @SundayJohn49773, stated it would be an interesting case, noting the level of corruption in the country.
He said, “It will look interesting if that happens because the level of corruption in Nigeria has become something else.”
On his part, @shi_li33609 wondered whether the President would also be questioned, stating that “Tinubu was part of the ex-governors I hope they go after him also.”