Written by Ronald Mutum & Maryam Rufai
Suddenly, it seems, matters of economic and financial crimes are receiving renewed attention with a recent focus on high-profile personalities.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been criticized for being somewhat lukewarm, only chasing after petty criminals leaving the big politically exposed persons to get away with fleeced billions.
Public perception holds that the EFCC has been reduced to chasing after internet fraudsters, land scammers, love scammers and the like. However, since the exit of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led federal government and general election results were announced that the opposition All Progress Congress (APC) won, activities at the EFCC picked up considerably.
Two governors who were declared wanted have submitted themselves at the EFCC for interrogation into petitions of ongoing investigation of financial crimes when they were chief executives in their states.
Within two weeks, ex-governors of Adamawa and Borno states, Murtala Nyako and Ali-Modu Sheriff respectively have been interrogated at the head office of the EFCC in Abuja.
Nyako had been embroiled in a war of words with former President, Good luck Jonathan who he accused of complacency in the atrocities carried out by the Boko Haram terrorist group.
This irked the Presidency and a chain of counter-accusations ensued between spokesmen at the Presidency and Adamawa State Government House.
Consequently, an investigation into the financial affairs of Nyako was opened and shortly after he was impeached by the State House of Assembly, he escaped being arrested by the EFCC and ran abroad. He only returned after Buhari won the election.
Nyako submitted himself to the EFCC to face charges and allegations levelled against him.
Also ex-governor Sherrif walked into the head offices of the EFCC in Abuja, barely a week after the commission said it may declare him wanted. He was invited to appear before EFCC operatives in April 2015, over allegations of “misappropriation, embezzlement of funds and abuse of office while he was governor.”
Sources at the commission confided to Daily Trust that Sherrif is being investigated on allegations of laundering over N300 billon when he held sway as governor.
The EFCC has also launched a campaign against 6 top executives of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over allegations of about N8 billion fraud.
A statement by the spokesman of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren said the 6 top executives of the CBN are implicated in a mega scam involving the theft and recirculation of defaced and mutilated currencies.
The EFCC also said 16 other bankers to be prosecuted alongside the executives are drawn from various commercial banks and were found to have conspired with the CBN executives to commit the crime.
Uwujaren said the suspects drawn from various business units of the apex bank are to be docked by the anti-graft agency before a Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State, from Tuesday June 2, 2015 to Thursday June 4, 2015.
“They include Patience Okoro Eye( Abuja) , Afolabi Olufemi( Lagos), Kolawole Babalola( Ibadan), Olaniran Muniru Adeola(Ibadan), Fatai Yusuf, Adekunle( Head, Security, CBN, (Ibadan) and Ilori Adekunle Sunday,(Akure),” the EFCC stated.
Uwujaren explained that the suspects instead of carrying out the statutory instruction to destroy the currency substituted it with newspapers neatly cut to naira sizes and proceeded to recycle the defaced and mutilated currency.
The EFCC said the fraud is partly to blame for the failure of government monetary policy over the years as currency mop up exercises by the apex bank failed to check the inflationary pressure on the economy.
Recently, Uwujaren faulted reports in the media that the EFCC has recorded low convictions of politically exposed person being prosecuted by the Commission. He listed eight former governors who are at different stages of prosecution, some who have been convicted; giving a catalogue of monies, properties, companies and bank accounts recovered and obtained through forfeiture orders.
Uwujaren said the record shows that between 2012 and 2014, the commission recovered over N65 billion, also over $245 billion; about seven hundred thousand pound sterling and over six two thousand Euros within the period.
Although the Commission’s cash recovery is huge, the perception still persists that not enough high-profile criminals are being investigated and/or arrested by the organisation.
Uwujaren argues that the EFCC only invites individuals as part of ongoing investigations and only when they have such persons be arraigned in court, they do not make such invitations public.
However, Daily Trust gathered that the reason why some high profile investigations are done quietly are because politically-exposed persons do not want their names in the newspapers over allegations that may turn out to be untrue.
In the past, when Farida Waziri was EFCC Chairperson, many governors and politically-exposed persons arrested or investigated by the EFCC made front page stories in the national dailies, while court cases lingered for as long as eight years.
It was learnt that politicians prefer a situation where investigation are muted with no mention in the newspapers so as to spare them the embarrassment, while they go quietly to court and frustrate the cases through the instrumentality of interlocutory injunctions to stall the cases. The EFCC has also called for the reform of the Judiciary and the creation of special courts to fast-track prosecution. But today on the headlines, it seems the anti-corruption watchdog has suddenly found its teeth.
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