By Ohia Israel
Former governors may have enjoyed constitutional immunity while in office, making them untouchable and demi-gods, but today having left office, such privileges are no more and as it is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has swooped on them, getting them one by one, while some are willingly answering the call at the commission.
As it is, the commission has commenced investigation against the administrations of Ibrahim Shema in Kastina State, Martin Elechi, Ebonyi State and Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, Ali Modu Sheriff of Borno State, Ohakim of Imo State. It is also obvious that they will soon swoop on the likes of Isa Yuguda of Bauchi, Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, Suswan of Benue State and others.
For instance, after returning to Nigeria from abroad, the former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, promised that he would pay a visit to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Thursday to follow up with ongoing EFCC investigations he is implicated in.
He stated that because the EFCC is the government’s anti-graft agency, and commissioned by law, there was no reason he would deny the invitation. Lamido is willing to honor the invitation and claims he would have also gone if he was still a Governor with immunity.
During the period Lamido was in office, Dantata and Sawoe Construction Company was awarded contracts of about N13.5 billion. The State Government paid for these contracts.
In 2014 the EFCC discovered that Mr. Lamido and his sons used their positions to seize Jigawa State funds. N1.3 billion from the construction firm Dantata and Sawoe was paid into the accounts that the former Governor and his sons had interests in. The EFCC arrested Mr. Lamido’s sons, Mustapha and Aminu, in 2013. However, their father, Sule Lamido, enjoyed full immunity.
Martin Elechi, the previous Governor of Ebonyi State, is also under corruption investigation and interrogation by the EFCC. Until recently, Mr. Elechi had not honored the EFCC’s invitation. Instead, his lawyer sent notification to the agency that Elechi was not available at the time they wanted to question him.
In January, the EFCC also interrogated Elechi’s son, Nnanna Elechi, over fraud allegations. Nnanna was said to have profited from State and Local Government contracts.
Prior to May 29th, Elechi was a former Governor who could not face any charges the anti-graft agency threw his way; he had constitutional immunity against legal prosecution. However, now that he is no longer in office the EFCC is resuming its investigation in full.
The EFCC has also questioned the Secretary of the State Ministry of Works, Cornelius Onwe, the State’s Accountant General, Edwin Igbele, the Commissioner for Finance, Timothy Ogbonnaya Odaa, and the Commission for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Cele Nwali.
All those mentioned above were suspected to partake in fraud concerning the Asphalt Project. It is probable that millions of naira were deducted from several Local Government accounts.
In Katsina State, the EFCC has invited four top officials who served under the Shema-led administration for questioning over some financial transactions. Those invited include the state’s accountant general; permanent secretary, Ministry of Agriculture; his Works counterpart, and the general manager of the State Road Maintenance Agency, KASROMA. Their invitation by the commission was contained in a two-page letter signed by one Aminudeen Muhammad on behalf of its chairman, and addressed to the Secretary to the Katsina State government.
Also a former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, was last week arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Mr. Ohakim, governor between 2007 and 2011, was arrested Thursday at about 10.05 am at his residence in the Asokoro district of Abuja.
A source at the commission said an invitation was sent to the former governor but that he failed to turn up Wednesday as advised. EFCC operatives, who had been on his trail for days, our source said, stormed his residence Thursday and drove him in an unmarked car to the commission’s headquarters in the Maitama district of the nation’s capital. The source said the former governor has questions to answer concerning a number of property allegedly traced to him.
Meanwhile earlier this year, after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, declared former Adamawa State Governor, Murtala Nyako and his son, Abdul-Aziz, wanted, operatives of the anti- graft agency, arrested the younger Nyako in Gombe, Gombe State.
A statement by the spokesperson of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, said he was immediately flown to Abuja, where he is currently being grilled by a crack team of detectives who had been working on the Adamawa investigation for several months.
Abdul-Aziz, who was declared wanted by the EFCC in the case of stealing, abuse of office and money laundering, is currently being interrogated over alleged illicit funds traced to companies in which he has interest. Specifically, he is being asked to explain how over N15billion funds belonging to Adamawa State was allegedly laundered into the accounts of five companies said to be owned by him- Blue Opal Nigeria Limited, Crust Energy Nigeria Limited, Blue Ribbon Multilinks Limited, Tower Assets Management Limited and Blue Ribbon Bureau De Change.
The funds was allegedly funneled into the accounts of the companies from Adamawa State accounts domiciled in a new generation bank by the account officer who incidentally is the manager and an in-law to Ex-governor Nyako.
The EFCC said the manager claimed he transferred the funds through verbal instruction from the former governor for purposes that were not stated. The commission said its investigations revealed that from 2007 to 2011, the then Governor Nyako directed that all state-owned accounts domiciled in various banks be transferred to the new generation bank.
Abdul-Aziz’s company, Blue Opal, is said to own, among other investments in Nigeria, an estate in Abuja, while his father’s account officer owns several properties and investments scattered around Abuja, Yola and Kano.
It will be recalled that a Federal High Court in Abuja last week refused a prayer by a former Governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, seeking an order restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the police and the Department of State Services from arresting him.
Nyako was reportedly quizzed by the EFCC for over eight hours on June 2, 2015 after he surrendered himself to the commission. The governor had, by an ex-parte application, sought an interim injunction restraining the EFCC and other security agencies from detaining him in relation to a case of alleged financial malpractices.
He had instituted the suit following his apprehension that he could be arrested over the said allegations by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, or the DSS and prosecuted by the EFCC. But instead of granting his prayers, Justice Ahmed Mohammed asked his lawyer, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, to put the other parties on notice by serving the court processes on them.
Ogungbeje, while moving the motion, urged the court to restrain the respondents – the IGP, DSS and EFCC – from arresting him pending the determination of the main suit. The fundamental human rights enforcement suit is marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/474/2015, was filed on May 28, 2015.
But in his ruling, Justice Mohammed refused the former governor’s prayer on the grounds that there was no sufficient reason for the court to restrain the respondents.
The judge ruled, “Having read through the supporting affidavit, particularly paragraphs 5 to 19 which contain facts relating to this case, this court is unable to accede to the request for order of interim injunction sought.”
He ordered Nyako to put the respondents on notice for the hearing of his application for an injunction. The judge also ordered Nyako to serve the originating motion on the respondents within seven days.
He then adjourned the matter till July 1 for the hearing of the application. Nyako is, by the substantive suit, seeking among other prayers, an order restraining the respondents from arresting or detaining him in relation to allegation of financial recklessness in violation of his fundamental human rights
However, sooner than later, another former governor that may get an invitation from the commission is Babangida Aliyu of Niger State. According to the Chief Press Secretary Dr. Ibrahim Dooba to Governor Sani Bello, he said the attention of the Niger State Government has been drawn to the continued denial in the media, by the officials of the past administration that they obtained a loan of N2.9 billion on the eve of their departure.
The Chief Press Secretary, Dr. Ibraheem Dooba in a statement said although government has stated, that it would allow the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) do their job, he said it is important to ask some significant questions of the past administration: “For instance, why would the then Secretary to the State Government (SSG) deny collecting any N600 million, only to later admit he collected the sum of N612 million for “general” security during the last senatorial bye-election in the state?
Asking further he said; “Was the money actually budgeted for, and was it used for the purpose intended? Why was the said funds given to the SSG, was he the Chief Security officer or INEC?”
Dooba stated that it was regrettable that instead of answering questions and making clarifications, these officials of the past administration have engaged in rhetoric, thereby diverting attention from the major issue.
“Else, why are they focusing on the definition of the “eve of departure”? It is obvious that these government officials have chosen the hard way rather than the easy one, and the hard way they will get”.
The Governor through his Chief Press Secretary said; “We continue to discover heinous scandals of the previous administration on a daily basis, however like said earlier, we will allow the EFCC to do their work.”
There are also indications that former Governor Yuguda of Bauchi state may be in the search light of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, following the constitution of a high powered committee by his predecessor Abubakar Mohhammed to recover government properties involving the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as a committee member.
The committee under the Chairmanship of Retired Air Commodore Ahmad Tijjani Baba is to recover such as the allocation of public property without due process by the immediate past administration.
This was contain in a press statement signed by Permanent Secretary Political Affairs Hashimu Yakubu in the office of the Secretary to the State Government who said the term of reference of the committee is to liaise with the secretariat of the main transition committee to obtain details of items that were affected.
Among the members of the committee are Representatives of the Police, Department of State Security Services, DSS, EFCC, Ministry of Justice and Head of Service while, Haruna Mohammed of the Bauchi State Television Authority is to serve as Secretary.
The statement added that the committee is mandated to recover all items confirmed to have been disposed or allocated not in accordance with the extant laws or not in conformity with due process and return them to the government.
The statement urged all public servants and the public, especially those involved in the disposal and allocation of the property in question to cooperate with the committee for the effective discharge of its assignment.
The committee is to submit its report within four weeks to pave way for speedy take off of the new administration the statement concluded. It would be recalled that Governor Mohammed had declared to evolve all measures to trace funds allegedly looted in the last tenure of the PDP under Yuguda.
This medium gathered that the newly elected Governor had already invited the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies to authenticate the financial dealings of Yuguda administration.
Also just recently a group known as Society for Good Governance has urged the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to without any further delay effect the arrest of former governor of Bauchi Isa Yuguda in connection to the allege huge he led the state into.
Chairman Society for Good Governance Mallam Yusuf Korau urged EFCC not to waste time in bringing former Governor Yuguda to their books to cough out the funds he allegedly siphoned while in office for eight years.
The measure he stressed is imperative to serve as a deterrent to airing leaders of tomorrow whose ambition is to steal public funds to the detriment of the yearning and aspiration of the people.
“We want to make it clear to EFCC to wake-up and beam their search light against Yuguda following the chilling revelations made by the new governor in the state. However, the failure of the anti graft to probe and arrest Yuguda will justify free for all in looting public funds in generations to come,” said Korau.
He lamented that Yuguda does not behave like a financial expert which he claim, but like a street touts who inflicted poverty abject suffering to people who voted him as governor in 2007. It’s unfortunate Yuguda allegedly ran away with workers two months salaries after series of illegal deductions.
He then charged the Federal Government to ensure Yuguda is brought to the book as a demonstration of APC mission for prudent financial management.
Meanwhile the newly sworn-in Bauchi state governor, Barrister Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, has lamented that his administration has discovered a cumulative external and domestic debt to the tune of N125 billion naira incurred by Yuguda’s administration. Abubakar made the revelation in a maiden broadcast to the people of the state, saying a total of N864 billion excluding ecological funds was incurred by the State under Yuguda’s tenure.
According to the governor, debt arising from domestic loans stood at N47.7 billion, while foreign loans is N18,9 billion as contract liabilities is N41.5 billion among others. The governor added that presently the state has no funds in its treasury which he described as quite disturbing due to the myriads of challenge it also inherited from Yuguda.
He lamented that the new administration is worried over how to source for funds to pay the outstanding workers’ April and May salaries which he thundered will require a whooping sum of N5.2 billion naira. Among the challenges before the new administration according to the governor is how to provide fertilizer to farmers, settlement of N572 million of Hajj operation, direct school feeding, cleaning of drainages and also running of the government activities.
The governor therefore maintained that the administration will not take long in its genuine commitment in tackling the menace of youth restiveness in the state.
By Ohia Israel