Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Senate on Thursday directed its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to issue a warrant of arrest on the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Larmode, who had consistently shunned the Chamber’s invitations to appear before it over allegations of financial corruption.
Larmode had, on several occasions been invited by the Red Chamber’s investigative panel to appear before it and clear himself of allegations of financial corruption levelled against him over an offence he allegedly committed while he was working with the anti-graft agency.
But Larmode’s consistent refusal to honour the invitations has compelled the Upper Legislative Chamber to contemplate applying the last resort provided by law to make him appear before it.
Chief Executive Officer of Panic Alert Security Systems, Dr. George Uboh, who petitioned the Senate, accused the former EFCC boss of diverting over N2 trillion recovered from politicians and other eminent Nigerians, who looted the nation’s treasury looters.
Uboh submitted his petition to the Senate through Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, alleging that Lamorde, in connivance with other EFCC officials, short-changed the Federal Government in the remittance of funds and properties recovered from some eminent public office holders.
The Probe Committee completed its investigation and wrote its report and submitted to the Chamber without Larmode appearing to respond to the issues raised against him by the petitioner.
While considering the report of the Committee on the matter yesterday, the Senate directed the Panel to adhere to the provisions of the Constitution, which empowers it (the Committee) to issue a warrant of arrest, routing it through the Senate President to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP).
The Committee in its report, had sought the Senate to adopt its resolution seeking that Larmorde be arrested and compelled to appear before it, having shunned three summons by the Committee in 2015.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, had recommended that Larmorde should be compelled to honour the Senate’s summon through arrest.
That way, Anyanwu noted, the Senate would save its integrity, and preserve its powers to summon, .
“The Committee, having waited in vain for the appearance of Mr. Ibrahim Larmode since November 24, 2015, it was forced to conclude that he wants to evade investigation.
“The only way to get the former EFCC Chairman to appear before the Committee was to invoke the powers of the Senate in Section 89 (1c and d) of the 1999 Constitution.
“The Committee is convinced that unless this line of action was taken, the National Assembly might be drawn into consequential disrepute in the future,” he stated.
The Committee, therefore, recommended that a warrant of arrest be issued by the Senate for the arrest of Larmorde.
However, coming through a point of order, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, reminded the Committee that the Constitution had given it power to request the arrest of anyone, who refuses to honour its invitations or summons.
Ekweremadu, who pointed out that the issuing of a warrant of arrest was not subject to the resolution of the entire Senate, cited Section 89 of the 1999 Constitution, which give the Committee power to request the arrest.
He noted that Section 89(4) also gives the Committee the power to ensure that the person being arrested is made to pay whatever the cost incurred in the course of arresting him.
“The Committee can impose such fines that may be prescribed for any such failure and it shall be recoverable in the same manner as a fine imposed by a court of law.
“The warrant issued under this section may be served or executed by any member of the Nigerian Police Force or by any person authorised by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives as the case may be.
“So, what is required here is for the Committee to issue a warrant of arrest and then the President of the Senate will direct the Police to effect the arrest. It is not the business of the Senate during the plenary to do so. Otherwise, we will be offending this part of the constitution.
“So, the issue of warrant of arrest is not something that we will take a resolution on; the resolution has already been taken by the Committee. If there is any consequential order that needs to be made, the Committee can deal with that, and direct it through the Office of the Senate President, who will direct the Police to effect the warrant,” he explained.
In his remark, the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who sustained the point of order raised by Ekweremadu, echoed that the request for a warrant should not have come to the plenary in the first place.
“The issue has been well spelt out by the DSP. Based on the Constitution, this matter does not need to come to us at plenary. It should be left at the level of the Committee and in accordance with Section 89 of the Constitution. So, I will sustain the point of order of the DSP,” he said.
While itemising some of the allegations against the former EFCC boss as contained in the petition by Uboh, Anyanwu said that the EFCC did not reflect all recovered funds.
“That the EFCC doctors and manipulates bank accounts to conceal diversion of fund; that EFCC releases recovered funds to unidentified persons and EFCC officials.
“That EFCC moves fund from its recovery accounts to EFCC operations accounts from where it diverts same; that EFCC trades with recovered funds through bank deposits and placements.
“That over 95 percent of EFCC’s recoveries in foreign currencies, other than those from multinational companies have been diverted; that EFCC colludes with real estate companies in order to grossly undervalue seized assets before they are sold to their cronies
“That EFCC has not accounted for offshore recoveries; that over half of the assets seized from suspects were not reflected in EFCC exhibit records,” he said.
It will be recalled that on December 13, 2012, the Senate, under its former President, Senator David Mark, issued its first warrant of arrest on the head of pension reform task team, Abdulrasheed Maina.
The arrest warrant was provoked by Maina’s refusal to appear before the Senate Joint Committee on Establishment and States and Local Government Administration, which was investigating the alleged mismanagement of pension funds to the tune of N195 billion.