Members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly are to be quizzed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Sunday in Lagos, some days after the speaker, Mr Boyelayefa Debekeme was questioned by the body.
The legislators were expected to leave Yenagoa for Lagos on Saturday to answer questions bordering on financial matters affecting their state. Our correspondent learnt that part of their query would be on the issue of their constituency projects.
On Tuesday, the speaker had reported to the office of the EFCC in Port Harcourt, after Ijaw youths battled to ensure that the officials did not arrest him in his Yenagoa residence, shortly after arriving from his overseas trip
The speaker was released on Wednesday evening, with a mandate to bring his other colleagues for similar interrogations.
The legislators met in the residence of one of the House leaders in the state capital on Friday for close to three hours, to discuss the development and also rehearse how to respond to EFCC’s possible questions. They also agreed at the meeting to travel on Saturday.
Their invitation is coming at a time when some of the legislators have spoken of the mounting pressure on them to resume sitting and to also begin the process of removing the governor who is expected to remain in the London Prison till November when his trial over alleged money laundering would resume.
One of the legislators told our correspondent over the phone that there was actual pressure on them to consider the removal of the governor, considering his on-going travails in London. He, however, said that those who were mounting the pressure were non-natives.
An elderstatesman from the state had expressed the fear to our correspondent on the phone on Friday that part of the pressure was to sufficiently intimidate the speaker and the other legislators so that they would consider the removal option.
The elderstatesman, who himself expressed fears that the governor might not return to the state and still keep his office, however, said a prominent Ijaw leader had left the country early in the week to see if he would be allowed to see the detained governor.
The governor’s Acting Chief Press Secretary, Mr Preye Wariowei, denied knowledge of any pressures on the Assembly to remove his boss. He even asked rhetorically and in pidgin English, where the pressure de come from? Me I never hear-o.
But another member of the Assembly, who confirmed the mounting pressure and their invitation by the EFCC, wondered why those who were pushing for the removal of the governor could not wait for him to be convicted in London.
According to him, the unfolding development amounted to begging the question. “Can they not wait till the man is convicted?
“They are in a hurry. I think they should wait until he is convicted. If he is convicted, the deputy will automatically take over. Of course, there is serious pressure. That is what they (those clamouring for the governor’s removal) want to do.”
The Assembly itself has not been in session since the arrest and detention of the governor. One legislative aide confided in our correspondent that the decision to prolong the recess might be deliberate because the legislators were divided on the governor’s travail.
He said the fear has been that if they reconvened, those who are in support of the governor’s arrest and trial in London might initiate the moves for his removal.
Meanwhile, the former national secretary of the Ijaw Youths Council, Mr Charles Omusuku, has said that the on-going trial of the Niger- Delta freedom fighter, Asari Dokubo, on charges of alleged treason was a trial for the Ijaw people.
He warned, in an interview with our correspondent, that the Federal Government should be careful not to incur the wrath of the generality of the Ijaw people, noting that they were watching the government handling of the matter.
SUNDAY PUNCH, October 09, 2005
Scandal: How my boss used me to steal N29m –Anambra Govt House worker spills the beans
Nearly one year after the November 10 mayhem took place in Anambra State, fresh revelation has emerged on how the sum of N29 million was stolen from a safe at the office of the state Governor, Dr. Chris Ngige, at the Government House in Awka.
Investigations by Sunday Punch revealed that the development came on the heels of the disappearance of another N36 million recently from the Governor’s Lodge in Amawbia.
Sources revealed to Sunday Punch that a former aide to a very influential government official, spilled the beans on how the N29 million was stolen after he fell apart with his boss.
The ex-aide, Jude (surname withheld), disclosed that the government official (name withheld), who is a senior career officer in Government House actually took the money, contrary to the initial impression that policemen looted it.
Sunday Punch recalled that when hoodlums torched the Government House on November 10, the account’s department was vandalised and all the safes were smashed.
The government confirmed a day later that among other others, N29 million was looted from the department. It, however, blamed the theft on riot policemen, who were sent to bring the situation under control.
It had alleged then that the police, hiding under the cover of the arson, looted air conditioners, computer sets and the money.
Sunday Punch learnt that this line of story sold until August, this year, when another sum of N36 million got missing, this time at the Amawbia lodge.
Jude was not only accused of knowing something about the latest theft, but was detained for days during which security agents allegedly interrogated him.
When he was released, he reportedly accosted his boss and expressed his displeasure over the manner he was treated and threatened to “tell the truth” about the money declared missing in November, last year.
The aide, who claims that his life is now under threat, has petitioned the Inspector-General of Police and the Commissioner of Police, Anambra State Command, asking them to come to his assistance by investigating how the money actually got missing.
According to him, he was the one the official personally asked to move the money to a nearby three-star hotel in Awka, where it was changed into dollars. He said the money was moved from the Government House before the arrival of the hoodlums.
He said, “I was involved with a lot of money transactions for the government running into hundreds of millions on a weekly basis, yet I was not accused of stealing one kobo.
“God bears me witness that the N29 million allegedly stolen by Mobile Policemen who took over the Government House during the November 10-12 mayhem was actually put in the booth of the Peugeot 406 saloon car, blue in colour belonging to my boss by me.
“He (the official) later directed me to a hotel, where we took the money to change N25 million out of the money into dollars for him. The burning of that office was a mere camouflage.
“As the Personal Assistant to my boss, I was in charge of finances and personal transactions. There was no week I did not withdraw money for transactions.
“I have every proof of such transactions. If I could do all these sincerely without stealing a single kobo, how can I now go and steal N36 million amidst over 40 security men at the Government Lodge? I know nothing about the missing money.”
After making repeated attempts, the official in question finally admitted to Sunday Punch that he fell apart with Jude, but vehemently refused to disclose the cause of their discord.
He persistently declined to comment on the allegation of his ex-aide on the excuse that it would demean his personality and status as a public officer but described all he said as “rubbish, irresponsible and nonsense.”
After a long prodding, he added, “He (Jude) must be dreaming to have said what he said because I know nothing about what he is saying.”
“I don’t even want to say anything about Jude, because he is the only one who can explain why he has decided to go after me”, the official stated further.
Sunday Punch, however, gathered that the fresh revelations had sent the police jubilating as they felt that they might have been exonerated from the shame the accusation that they stole public money brought on them.
But, when the spokesman of the state police command, Mr. Kolapo Shofoluwe, was contacted, he said as far as the command was concerned, whatever took place at the Government House was between the government and the officials involved.
He stated that up till Saturday (yesterday), the command had not received any official complaint of the reported cases of theft at the lodge and the Government House.
“Yes, we heard, just as every other person heard, but they did not report to us nor ask us to get involved. Therefore, we take it that nothing happened until they report to us.
“We heard that a government official stole certain amount of money, but what can we do if no official report has been lodged?”, Shofoluwe told Sunday Punch.
SUNDAY PUNCH, October 09, 2005
Yorubas’ll revolt if OBJ fails to leave in 2007 - Rimi
ALHAJI Abubakar Rimi, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees and former governor of old Kano State, has said that the people of South West would certainly revolt against President Olusegun Obasanjo, if he decided to stay beyond 2007 saying 90 percent of Yorubas did not feel any particular impart of his administration. Alhaji Rimi, who spoke to pressmen in Kano, revealed that there are available reports that OBJ is scheming not only for a third term agenda, but also to stay in government indefinitely.
Said he, “let me tell you something, though there is nothing a dictator leader like OBJ cannot wish to do, but I am assuring you, the Yorubas would not take it lightly with him, though Obasanjo is their son”. Alhaji Rimi, however, revealed that unknown to many people, OBJ has ordered for a study of all dictators of the world who have succeeded and managed to stay in office beyond the normal time. He disclosed that the countries President Obasanjo was able to get studies from are Libya, where Gaddafi, is above 40 years, Togo where Eyadema stay for about 42 years, Zaire, where Mobutu Seseko stayed for about 30 years and Egypt, where Mubarak is now spending about 25 years.
He said these were the reports brought to him and that if he played his card well, he too could stay as long as he likes. Alhaji Rimi, however, stated that OBJ has forgotten that most of these countries are nothing but banana republics, and that most of them have one ethnic group and one religion. Said he, “but in this country called Nigeria, there are over 250 ethnic groups, coupled with multiple religions, where people feel democracy should flourish”.
Alhaji Rimi pointed out that for anybody to be advising him to stay beyond the 2007 allowed by the Nigeria constitution meant that the person wanted to endanger his (OBJ) life. He further disclosed that if PDP is going in the way it was going, with the imposition of leaders and not correct the anomalies in the on-going PDP registration, that the party may collapse.
EFCC to seize N10b govs, legislators’ property in South Africa
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has commenced moves to confiscate property valued at over N10 billion believed to have been secretly acquired by some serving governors and other top government officials. The renewed moves by the Commission is said to be a fallout of the recent arrest and detention of Bayelsa State Governor, DSP Alamieyeseigha, in London, over money laundering charges.
Before the governor’s arrest, some “smart” governors and government officials, who were said to have saturated Europe and America with looted funds were said to have diverted their attention to South Africa, which, according to sources, is believed to operate a friendly property market. A source told Sunday Tribune “The Commission is secretely investigating all of them (governors) and government officials) and we are getting results, our major headache is this immunity thing, but we are moving ahead.”
It was gathered that at least, four governors, two of them in the South-South have taken over almost all choice property in the major cities of South Africa. Some serving legislators are said to have bought estates running into millions of naira. “We have it on good authority that at least, two governors are now competing as to who can buy the choicest property in South Africa. They should know that EFCC is watching them because, we suspect that all those are being done with state resources”, another source said.
It was further gathered that the renewed effort at siphoning money into South Africa gained currency in the last one year following the efforts of European countries and the United States of America to stamp out money laundering. “You know that EFCC in now a member of Interpol, that is why it is easy for us to monitor the activities of the governors. We have seen much co-operation from the European countries and the United States because they have always seen results in the complaints of their citizens against 419 activities of some Nigerians, EFCC has impressed them” another source told Sunday Tribune.
Sunday Tribune gathered that rather than keeping the allegedly acquired monies in South African banks, the affected officials have diverted into property as a way of tying down the illegally sourced wealth. The source further said that the Commission is currently collating the details of the property so far acquired by Nigerian governors, legislators and top government functionaries in South Africa, preparatory to making the big move that will ensure that some pro-perty become that of the government of Nigeria.
“We don’t envisage that it would be difficult to confiscate such illegal property, since we can prove that the sources of the money used in purchasing them do not correlate with the earnings of such officials, but we are also seeking further proofs, if people come up with genuine evidence, the property will be released to Nigeria,” a source in the Commission further told Sunday Tribune
Nigeria has in the past years remained rooted on the black list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the world’s anti-money laundering body. The last assessment released in March indicated that the country has not achieved much in its efforts aimed at stamping out money laundering as the country was not listed among those whose names were deleted from the FATF black list.
Anti-corruption war: Nobody can intimidate me –Obasanjo
By PHILIP NYAM and EMMANUEL ULAYI, Abuja
President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday reiterated that he was committed to continue with the crusade against corruption insisting that he would not yield to any form of blackmail or intimidation.
The president made the declaration at the opening ceremony of a two-day national workshop on the imperative of good governance and transparency in a democracy in Abuja.
Obasanjo said he was serious with the directive to the EFCC to investigate the allegations of corruption leveled against him by governor Orji Kalu of Abia state adding that the anti graft war was irreversible and non negotiable.
“In this battle, we need no weapons. It requires no violence or bloodshed. We need only our will, our hearts, our convictions and our commitment as a government and as a people to do the right thing at the right time.”
He called on the rank and file of the civil service in Nigeria to support the anti-corruption war, Obasanjo said the war may not attain the desired result without the active and collective participation of the civil and public servants in Nigeria.
According to him, the war was yielding results and commended the EFCC on its efforts in arresting fraudsters outside the country adding “we are making a steady progress on all fronts and we are not giving up. All that I can call for at this point is your steadfastness in support and prayers'.
“The challenge,” added thepresident, “may be daunting, now is the time to harness the boundless energies of our people to oust the spiritual degeneration and monster of political rascality, social irresponsibility, moral decay and corruption. As a government, we are irrevocably committed to doing just that.”
Library: Obasanjo wants court to dismiss Gani’s suit
MALACHY UZENDU, Abuja
PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday asked a Federal High Court, Abuja to dismiss a suit filed against him by Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) over the May 14, 2005 fund raising for the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL).
In a submission made by his counsel, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), the President said Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution protects him from any legal action while in office.
The section gives immunity to the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors against civil and criminal proceedings.
Gani had dragged the President to court over an estimated N6.5 billion donations realised at the fund raising ceremony of the OOPL claiming that Obasanjo had used his official position to force all major government contractors to donate money to his private project.
He also stated that contrary to claims by the President, the directors of OOPL were serving public officers, thus violating the constitution on such matters.
But arguing his preliminary objection in court yesterday, Chief Babalola stated that Gani had no legal rights (locus standi) to institute the action as he failed to state the special rights infringed upon.
He also stated that being a presidential candidate on the platform of National Conscience Party (NCP) in the 2003 general elections as well as the claim that he (Gani) is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) did not entitle him to file the suit, as his private life had not been infringed upon.
Similarly, Obasanjo contended that the five reliefs where the plaintiff claimed sections 15(5) and 23 of the constitution had been violated did not disclose any cause of action in that they did not violate Chapter II of the Constitution.
Obasanjo also stated that under Section 308 of the Constitution, the President is immune from civil or criminal prosecution while in office.
He explained that given the scenario, the suit by Chief Fawehinmi was an abuse of court process in that the fact that "one is a lawyer does not give him the licence to provoke, insult, scandalise or annoy his adversary."
He said that the affidavit sworn to by Chief Fawehinmi in support of the claims violated the letters of Section 204 of the Evidence Act.
"As earlier submitted, where a party’s private right has not been violated in any way, it is an abuse of court process to come to court.
"In this case, the applicant’s affidavit does not show that he has locus standi. In the circumstance, the plaintiff ought to have withdrawn his action," he stated.
He added that having commenced the suit by originating summons, Section 2 (9) of the Public Officers Protection Act had been violated.
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