Within one year of the Second Term of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission , EFCC, has its bags full of successful convictions and recoveries of mind-blowing assets from them. DELE OYEWALE writes.
With a record 1,297 convictions between May 29, 2019 and May 28, 2020, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is surely notching up on its assigned mandate and for some good reasons. One of the reasons, the Acting Executive Chairman of the Commission, Mr Ibrahim Magu, says, is that the EFCC would stop at nothing to get its work done. “We are on course”, he said.
Being on course means that economic and financial crimes can no longer be trifled with, by those who value their peace and freedom. In the last one year, the 14 Zonal offices of the EFCC nationwide have individual strings of convictions. Lagos chalked up with 235 convictions, followed closely by Port Harcourt with 222 convictions and Ibadan with 210 convictions. Others are: Abuja Zone and Corporate Headquarters with 148; Enugu 112; Benin-City 89; Uyo 72; Gombe 61; Ilorin 43; Kano 27; Kaduna 26; Maiduguri 23, Makurdi 18 and Sokoto 11.
Some of the convictions are A-list. Topping the chart is the former Abia State Governor Orji Kalu that bagged 12 years imprisonment for N7.65billion fraud. A serving Senator representing Abia North in the National Assembly, the former governor was arraigned alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited and Udeh Udeogu, his Director of Finance and Accounts while holding sway at the Abia State Government House on amended 39- count charges, bordering on conspiracy and diversion of the sum of N7.65billion belonging to Abia State government.
Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos slammed 12 years jail term on Kalu and his co-travellers. Although, a recent Supreme Court judgment voided the conviction of Kalu on technicalities, the EFCC is unrelenting in its weighty evidence against him and ready for a retrial of the ex-governor as directed by the apex court.
Within the same time frame of one year, the EFCC also secured the conviction of former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh. Metuh was sentenced to seven years imprisonment by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja. The EFCC prosecuted Metuh on a seven-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion of funds to the tune of N400million.
Justice Abang found him guilty of all the seven charges and convicted him accordingly. He also ordered him to refund the N400million to the Federal Government. Metuh is cooling his heels in Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja.
Other high-profile convictions secured in the course of the year are; Calistus Obi, former acting Director General of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Damilola Ahmed Adeyeri and his mother, Alaba Kareem Adeyeri over Internet fraud (Yahoo-yahoo) and the Process and Industrial Development Limited( P&ID). Obi was on June 3rd, 2019 found guilty of charges of conspiracy, conversion and money laundering to the tune of N136million by Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos. She convicted him alongside Alu Dimas, his former aide.
Adeyeri and his mother bagged 12 Years jail term for $82,570 internet fraud, following a four-count charge of conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretence to the tune of $82, 570. 00 preferred against them by the EFCC.
Concerning the liquidation and forfeiture of P&ID Nigeria Limited to the Federal government, a Federal High Court, in Abuja convicted and liquidated the company for fraud and tax evasion after it pleaded guilty to an 11-count charge of fraud and tax evasion before Justice Inyang Ekwo.The court also ordered its assets to be forfeited to the Federal Government.
The company was awarded a controversial $9.6billion verdict against Nigeria in an arbitration decision by a United Kingdom court, following a failed 2010 project to build a gas-processing plant in Calabar, Cross River State.
Other landmarks include the arrest of two Chinese who offered a bribe of N100million to the Sokoto Zonal Head of the EFCC, Abdulahi Lawal. A first instalment of N50million was hand-delivered by the foreigners, prompting their arrest by operatives of the Commission. They have since been arraigned in Sokoto and granted bail.
Outside arrests, prosecution and convictions secured by the EFCC, another hit came through recoveries of a total sum of N32,659,362,403.3; $10,348,079; £758,155; €183,475 among other recoveries. Magu said that the recoveries would have been higher but for the hiccups being experienced owing to the lingering Covid-19 pandemic.
Another ladder of progress the Commission is climbing is in the area of public awareness and sensitization of the nation to the havocs being caused by corruption. On February 14, 2020, the EFCC held the first-ever Nigerian Youth Walk Against Corruption which brought out millions of youths in all the 36 States of the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory.
Important youth groups, like the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), youth-focused Civil Society associations and trade union groups like the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Student Union groups across the nation, trooped out in a landmark Road-Walk. The nation stood still for the youths on the fateful day. The EFCC held the Road Walk in collaboration with the NYSC and the Walk is proposed as an annual event.
For a Commission that has built consciousness of the entire world to the ills of corruption, the EFCC is busy fashioning new ways of getting the public more involved in its fight against graft. Recently, at a Virtual Town Hall Meeting in London, United Kingdom, an interaction with Nigerians in the Diaspora, Magu wooed Nigerians in the Diaspora over the imperatives of public ownership of the fight, even in their foreign locations.
His clarion call is hinged on building stronger synergy and collaboration with every interest groups to tackle the monster of corruption. “The EFCC needs collaborative engagements with you all”, he said. For every Nigerian and the Diasporans, the Magu’s persuasion seems to be the only modality of engagement to break the jinx of corruption in our land.
All these heart-warming achievements of the EFCC are not without public appreciation. Just recently, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) honoured Magu with its prestigious, ICAN’s 2020 Merit Award. The award was presented to him by ICAN President, Mazi Nnamdi Okwuadigbo, virtually through an ICAN Webinar.
Okwuadigbo, while justifying the conferment of the Award on Magu, said that the EFCC’s Chairman is an icon ‘’who has been religiously leading the crusade against corruption through the EFCC’’. Explaining further, the ICAN boss said that Magu is a “worthy ambassador’’ whose award was approved after painstaking scrutiny of his contributions to the Accounting profession and the country as a whole.
Special Guest of Honour at the occasion, Otunba Olutola Senbore, described Magu as a steadfast and disciplined head of Nigeria’s foremost anti-corruption agency. “He deserves the award more than anyone else”, he said. Other accolades have been coming for the EFCC and its energetic boss. With its bags full of cheering exploits, the future seems prepared for the EFCC and its workforce but trouble-laden for all perpetrators of corrupt acts.
Dele Oyewale is Head, Media & Publicity of the EFCC.