Anti-corruption Watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has revealed how a prominent South-South Governor embezzled N100 billion from state coffers.
Given hints as to how the governor was able to misappropriate the said amount, the commission, in a report quoted in a Vanguard news report, stated that: “Among those who benefited from the funds from the state’s account was a former chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who received a manager’s cheque of N100 million from the same account on November 28, 2005.
“Between 2005 and 2006, the said governor paid one professor about N1.5 billion which was used to obtain a doctorate Degree and naming of a Hall after him in Lincoln University, USA and so many others. “From the same account, he moved N3 billion to an oil company for shares, N1.4 billion to a bottled water company, and about N1.8 billion to a communications company which, as of 2006, had no share as it was not a quoted company.
“When the investigation commenced, the former governor quickly involved the state government to take over the shares but the government was not keen on the takeover of the shares in the communications company and requested that the company returned the money.
“While the investigation was going on to unravel the remaining beneficiaries and the funds that were moved to an energy company, the former governor approached the court and obtained a perpetual order, so the investigation can be stopped.
“However, sometimes in 2018, information was received that some companies belonging to a retired ASP had, between 2004 and 2018, received over N5 billion into the account, with the funds coming in tranches of N500 million, N300 million, etc, which raised serious suspicion of financial fraud.
“The intelligence further explained that the funds, which were domiciled in eight commercial banks, had a turnover of over N10 billion. These companies linked to the retired ASP and their accounts were thoroughly investigated and it was discovered that the inflow into these accounts was mostly cash. “On a few occasions, about N2 billion came in from the government of the South-South state’s account before 2016 and 2017.
These funds were trace to three companies. Based on the above, and in view of the fact that the above companies were not part of the restraining order of the Federal High Court, the EFCC commenced a further investigation. “The petitioner had alleged that the South-South state governor had conspired with officials of his government and the chairman of the power company to divert over N100 billion from the account of the state, alleging that he used the same for a power project in the state.
“The petitioner also went further to say that part of the state fund was moved to Government House account, from where it was distributed to the then governor and his relatives and investigation commenced. “The account of Government House domiciled in one of the commercial banks in the country was immediately obtained and details of the account revealed that about N4 billion, between 2004 and 2006, was moved in cash to the Maitama branch of the said bank in favour the former governor’s top aide and another person, who was a staff in the state’s Liaison Office, Abuja. These funds were withdrawn in cash for the former governor.
“The Liaison Office staff was, thereafter, arrested and he confirmed that the funds were withdrawn for the former governor through his ADC. The investigation was on when the ADC, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, ASP, suddenly retired from the Police and disappeared into the thin air. “It was further established that the funds were moved from the banks in Abuja, contrary to the claim by the former governor that the money formed part of his security votes.
“The ADC, the principal suspect in the alleged fraud, has been in hiding and has refused to honour the invitation of the commission. The commission reliably gathered that it was because of the case that he prematurely left the Nigeria Police Force,” a top official of the EFCC said. Ex-gov wants perpetual order maintained But the former governor has moved quickly to stop the EFCC from carrying out any further probe on his tenure or any person and institutions that had any transaction with his administration which spanned from 1999 through 2007. The former governor, according to court papers obtained by Vanguard, has dragged both the Attorney General of the Federation and the EFCC to the Federal High Court, asking the court to compel them to be bound by the contents and character of the perpetual injunction issued against them by the same court in 2007.
According to the court papers, the former governor is contending that any attempt by the federal government’s anti-corruption agencies to probe the financial transactions which took place during his administration amounts to the disobedience of the court order issued by Justice Buba Ibrahim. He insisted that the defendants had no right to start a fresh round of probe of his administration as long as the perpetual injunction, which was on appeal at the Appeal Court, was yet t be heard. The former governor is of the view that neither the EFCC nor the AGF was vested with any right to delve into the operations of his administration 13 years after he had left office during the pendency of the case on appeal and should, therefore, steer clear of any financial transaction that had to do with the government of the state, its present and former officials.
In particular, he formulated two issues for the FHC to determine: “Whether upon the construction of Section 287 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the EFCC and the AGF by themselves, or acting through officials, agents and privies can invite, investigate and prosecute the plaintiff regardless of the subsisting judgement of this court in suit No: FHC/PH/CS/78/2007.
“Whether the defendants having commenced an appeal against the judgment of the FHC in Shit No. FHC/PH/CS/78/2007 between the Attorney General of the state VS EFCC and others which said appeal is still subsisting at the Court of Appeal defendants can ignore the process before the said Court of Appeal and purport to commence a fresh investigation on the same subject matter of the appeal or any other matter connected thereto.”
The issue was first brought to the public domain 13 years ago when the EFCC blew the whistle.
The case is scheduled for hearing on March 30, 2020.