Inside EFCC (7): The Case of Senator Olabode Ola of Ekiti ][poy
By EPHRAIM EMEKA UGWUONYE
Senator Ola Olabode Ola won his senatorial seat for Ekiti state under the ACN (formerly AD) in the 2007 elections. However, his PDP opponent was illegally declared the winner of the elections. Senator Ola went to court to challenge this electoral fraud. It took two years of legal battles for the tribunal to declare Senator Ola the winner. So Ola was sworn in as Senator in 2009 and he remained a Senator until April 2011. In the 2011 elections, Senator Ola was again cheated out of a well earned victory. He has been back in court fighting for his mandate.
In addition to his brilliant political fights, Senator Ola has successfully fought a major legal battle against the Almighty EFCC. In 2008, the EFCC acting on an “anonymous” tip-off, raided the Friendly Hotel Ltd in Ado Ekiti. This happened within 48 hours to the time Senator Ola was to be in court to reclaim his electoral mandate. Clearly, what the EFCC claimed was a tip-off was nothing other than a conspiracy between the officials of EFCC and the political opponent of Senator Ola. The day of the EFCC raid on Friendly Hotels Ltd was March 31, 2008.
The connection was that the hotel belonged to Senator Ola. He had built around 2002 after retiring from a successful career in the Nigeria’s Foreign Service.
What specifically was the objective of the raid? The EFCC claimed that they received a tip-off that some internet fraudsters had used the business center of the Friendly Hotels to send out scam letters via the internet. The EFCC raid was ostensibly to apprehend the alleged internet fraudsters.
The following facts were never in dispute: (1) though Senator Ola owned the Hotel, he left the management of the hotel in the hands of others. He only visited the hotel occasionally, having been spending a lot of his time around that period in Abuja. (2) The business center of the hotel, which has a cyber café was opened to the general public in the course of business.
On the fateful day, the EFCC operatives raided the hotel. They disrupted the business of the hotel. They ruffled guests and visitors. They made such an open show of the raid so that everyone in town would know that Senator Ola’s hotel was in serious trouble with the law. Their operatives and the policemen that came with them fired several shots into the air in an unmistakable show of force. Senator Ola who happened to be in town on that day was invited to the hotel, where he was detained and interrogated by the EFCC officials. At the end of the show of force akin to the Rambo movie production, the EFCC officials casted away all the computers in the hotel’s business center together with the server, and took them to the EFCC office in Lagos.
A few days after this incident, after waiting in vain to hear from the EFCC, Senator Ola sent a letter demanding to have return back the computers and warning that if EFCC failed to return his computers, he was going to seek redress in the court of Law. As is customary with the EFCC officials, they ignored Senator Ola’s request and warning. Senator Ola sued EFCC at the Federal High Court requesting for damages and compensation for the taking of the computers in violation of law and for the humiliation that was visited upon him by the EFCC officials.
EFCC’s lawyers defended this lawsuit, but lost in the end. The court, after more than a year of litigation, awarded damages in the amount of 50.5 million Naira to Senator Ola against the EFCC. This judgment marked one of the rare occasions up to that moment where a victim of the EFCC was able to sue EFCC successfully. . EFCC leadership decided not to pay the damages awarded by court. Senator Ola had no choice but to move to enforce the judgment against EFCC and he managed to garnishee the bank account of EFCC; all these done according to the due process of the law.
The successful and lawful efforts of Senator Ola further annoyed the EFCC officials who had sworn never to respect the judgment of the court. (by the way, the full judgment is attached) The EFCC officials swore to deal with both Senator Ola and the Judge that tried the case and issued the judgment.
On Tuesday, November 22, the EFCC staff invited Senator Ola to their Abuja office for him to meet Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde to negotiate the payment of the judgment to him. On Thursday, November 24, Senator Ola went to meet the EFCC officials as requested. Instead of payment negotiation, the senator was detained by the EFCC and he was immediately moved to Lagos and has since been detained in the cell where he and Emeka Ugwuonye met.
Since Senator Ola’s detention, a number of interesting events have occurred. First, EFCC officials have repeatedly told the senator that he has to share proceeds of the judgment with them if he wanted to be released. But as a matter of principle, the Senator refused to pay bribe to any official, which is one of the reasons they are still keeping him. Second, despite their bullying tactics, the EFCC officials understand that there could be consequences for unlawfully arresting and detaining the Senator. After all, he already has a judgment against them for previous violation of his rights. Therefore, to cover up their tracks, the EFCC filed 3-count criminal charges against the Senator in Ado-Ekiti Federal High Court. On Sunday, November 27, EFCC took the Senator by road to Ado – Ekiti with intention to arraign him on Monday, November 28. They spent the night Akure (The Senator was kept overnight in a dirty police station in Akure. And they arrived at the court on Monday morning.
As providence would have it, the court did not sit. EFCC’s plan to legalize an illegality did not work as they planned it. The officials didn’t know what to do. They had hoped the court would remand the Senator in jail and they would have succeeded in humiliating him in the presence of his people. But as the court did not sit, they were at a loss as to what next to do. By the way, can you guess the offences they charged the Senator with? The charges were that the cyber café of Friendly Hotels Ltd was used by somebody to transmit a scam letter, and that the cyber café was not registered with the EFCC. And all these allegedly happened in 2008.
Another important fact about the timing of these charges is that like the raid in 2008, it is happening at a critical point in Senator Ola’s effort to reclaim in the courts his stolen electoral mandate. EFCC officials are being paid by politicians to intimidate an opponent. Senator Ola is again the target of that campaign of intimidation. But the Senator is fighting them off. Like a typical bully, EFCC does not take it kindly when a person stands up to them and fights back. So, they had to keep looking for other ways to legalize the absurdity in their treatment of the Senator.
On Monday, November 28, they took Senator Ola back to Lagos. Realizing that it was then more than 48 hours after their arrest of the Senator fearing the consequence of violating the constitutional timeline for detentions of this nature, the officials quickly gave the Senator a piece of paper containing terms of administrative bail . But the terms were intentionally too onerous. They just wanted it to be that they granted him bail. Otherwise, it was not their intention to release him from detention. Still worried that despite their calculations, they feared they could still be in trouble especially given the character of a fellow inmate the senator might have been speaking with since he arrived in the cell. So they continued to look for some crooked way to legalize the unlawful detention of the Senator.
On Thursday, December 1, the EFCC officials took the Senator to an Ikeja Magistrate Court for the purpose of obtaining a detention order to continue to detain the man. The Senator did not know he was going to court until they came to the cell and asked him to dress up. It was when he asked to know where he was ibeing taken to that he learned it was the court. The EFCC wanted this to be an ambush so that the senator’s lawyers would be absent from the court. But don’t mess with a Senator. Even the dumbest of them could be shrewed and smart. When they got to the court, they asked the magistrate to order for the Senator to be detained. The Magistrate heard from the Senator’s side. Routinely, the Magistrates grant such orders to please the EFCC. But this case is different and every judge would like to ensure that he follows the law, as the Senator may fight back with the law. Indeed, in many other cases of inmates in EFCC cell, EFCC doesn’t even make similar efforts to legalize their illegal acts. They just believe that ordinary guys would never be able to fight them.
So, the Magistrate looked at the EFCC lawyer and official in her court and sternly refused to sign an order to detain the Senator. When the EFCC official tried to pressure the magistrate, she asked them; “do you want to become the judge so you can sign the order yourselves?” The magistrate went further to caution them that there was no way they could file a case in a Federal High Court in Ado-Ekiti and come to a magistrate court in Lagos to get an order to detain the accused. They walked out of the court in shame. And they took the senator back to the cell.
As earlier reported on elombah.com, on Friday, December 2nd, around 6:00 am, the senator fell down in the bathroom while trying to go through the morning natural routine. And he injured himself. The reason he fell was that there was no light in the cells. There had not been light for two days. Note that the generator used when the power is out belongs to the inmates and it is the inmates, not EFCC, that contribute money to buy fuel for the generator. Also, it is the inmates that buy light bulbs and such stuff in the cell. In this occasion, there was electrical fault and all the light bulbs exploded on Wednesday evening. The inmates hired electrician on Thursday to fix the problem. The problem could not be fixed in time. So there was no light in the cell Thursday night through Friday morning. The senator, not being quite familiar with the cell floor plan, stumbled and fell, injuring himself.
When the senator fell, the inmates followed some emergency they could. The guards were called in and the Senator was taken to the military hospital, the EFCC officials came to the hospital and took him away. They were taking him to a different magistrate court, Ebute Meta Magistrate Court. The officials were not happy that the first magistrate refused to issue an order the day before. Therefore, they swore to approach a magistrate they considered a good friend of EFCC. With a practiced ease, they presented their documents expecting the magistrate to sign the order. But the senator’s lawyers who had been alarmed by what happened the day before were ready and waiting. They got to the court early and informed the magistrate what was going. The second magistrate called the first one to confirm what happened the day before. Then the magistrate called the EFCC lawyer to his chambers and sternly rebuked him, warning him not to come to his court again with such monkey tricks. They left the court a second time disappointed. They took the senator back to the hospital for him to continue his treatment for the injury he sustained from the fall. When the doctor asked the EFCC lawyer where they took the senator to for the past 4 hours, they lied and said they only went to check something in their office.
On the same day, the senator’s lawyers in Abuja were able to obtain an interim order from a Federal High Court in Abuja, commanding the EFCC to release the senator. The order will be served on Monday, December 5. It is to be seen whether the EFCC will obey that order or whether they will try some other trick. Meanwhile, as of December 4, the senator remains in detention. He is recovering from his injury and he is strong and in high spirit. In fact, he is receiving a round-the-clock legal advice on how to fight back to defend his constitutional rights.
Incident Report prepared by Emeka Ugwuonye.
Book: Late Nigeria President (Umaru Yar’adua) Wilted Away In Office-AP
y JON GAMBRELL
Nigeria’s late President Umaru Yar’Adua grew so weak while in office that at one stage he needed to be carried by a soldier during a state visit to Togo, ultimately becoming unable to speak in the last weeks of his life, according to a new book by his former spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi. Umaru Yar’Adua died in May 2010 and according to a book written by his former spokesman the ill president became a political pawn in a charade that saw soldiers deployed without authorization and rumours of a possible coup in the oil-rich nation.
It also describes the rise of militancy in the oil-rich country’s crude-producing southern delta, including how a militant leader stole thousands of machine guns from Nigerian army depots.
Though portraying his former boss in a largely flattering light, Adeniyi’s book shows how tenuous democracy is in a nation plagued by vote-rigging and that cast off military rule only 13 years ago.
“If we will be honest with ourselves, we all know how we rig elections in this country,” Adeniyi quotes Yar’Adua as saying during a closed-door January 2008 meeting about the corrupt election that saw him become the nation’s leader. “We compromise the security agencies, we pay the electoral officials and party agents while on the eve of the election we merely distribute logistics all designed to buy the vote.”
The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of “Power, Politics and Death: A Front-Row Account of Nigeria Under the Late President Yar’Adua” from the author, who now writes a column for ThisDay newspaper. Reuben Abati, a spokesman for current President Goodluck Jonathan, declined to comment on the book. A spokesman for the ruling People’s Democratic Party did not respond to a request for comment.
In the book, Adeniyi acknowledges Yar’Adua’s ascension to power through a rigged 2007 presidential election. Yar’Adua, already sickly from a chronic kidney condition, weakened quickly under the strain of the presidency.
Those around him tried to protect his image. Adeniyi recounts instructing a cameraman from the state-run television network to film the president from the side only in one instance in 2008 to hide Yar’Adua’s swollen face after an allergic reaction.
Yar’Adua then had “minor surgery” in Germany, but could only work a few hours a day, if at all, after the procedure, Adeniyi writes. As he grew sicker, Yar’Adua began receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia with government officials suspecting that “American security agents had penetrated the (German) hospital and had gained access to the president’s health profile,” according to the book.
At one point during a trip to Togo, the military officer assigned to Yar’Adua had to drape traditional robes over his arm to hide the fact he needed to nearly carry the president off a landing strip, the book claims.
Yar’Adua departure in late November 2009 for a several-month stay at a hospital in Saudi Arabia set up a constitutional crisis that saw government grind to a halt in the OPEC member nation. The National Assembly ultimately voted to empower then-Vice President Jonathan to serve as acting president. Yar’Adua was whisked back into Nigeria’s capital Abuja under the cover of darkness days later, apparently unable to talk. He apparently was brought back so those close to Yar’Adua could exert control over Jonathan.
Soldiers deployed to the Abuja airport to escort Yar’Adua home in an ambulance without Jonathan’s knowledge, the book claims. The next day, rumors of a possible coup flourished.
“There were fears among (Jonathan’s) closest aides he could be shot by the soldiers,” the book claims.
It later adds: “Signals from the military were also hazy, with fears that some soldiers could take out both Yar’Adua and Jonathan.”
Yar’Adua died on May 5, 2010. Jonathan was sworn in as president the next day.
The book also describes the Yar’Adua-led amnesty program offered to militants in the country’s Niger Delta, where foreign oil firms have pumped crude oil for more than 50 years. Despite the billions of dollars earned yearly from oil sales, the region remains desperately poor and polluted.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta was the region’s premier militant group, its rise aided by a series of weapons thefts engineered by the group’s alleged leader Henry Okah from Nigerian military depots, Adeniyi writes. The theft of thousands of weapons, including pistols, machine guns and rocket launchers, “was so staggering and the crime so well organized that the investigating team could hardly determine the exact amount of arms removed,” Adeniyi writes.
Okah, who denies leading the militant group, now faces terrorism charges in South Africa over a dual car bombing Oct. 1, 2010, in Abuja that killed at least 12 people. Six soldiers were sentenced to life in prison over the arms thefts.
- Lamorde vows to cleanse EFCC (vanguardngr.com)
- Ex-Gov Danjuma Goje surrenders to EFCC (vanguardngr.com)
- Edo lawmaker calls for overhaul of EFCC operations (vanguardngr.com)