Many questions are flying in the air over the move by the Senate to probe the Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde. The first is whether the summons the anti-corruption agency served the wife of the Senate President Toyin few weeks ago has provoked the Upper Chamber to fight back as if to tell Larmode, How Dare You? . Another is this; Is this part or independent of the general anti-corruption fight by the Federal Government.? Even among Senators there is no general agreement about the need for the probe. The PDP caucus in the Senate had said the move was in bad taste, saying that it was both premature and too hasty. In a jointly signed statement by all the four PDP principal officers in the Senate, the Senate and in particular, the Committee was admonished to suspend the public hearing for now.
“This is not the appropriate time for such a sensitive assignment, more so, when a similar move to that effect on the floor of the Senate recently failed,” the statement read in part. Given this positions and the ensuing public outcry, the Senate had to refute the first question, which has stirred public outcry against the Senate’s move. It has described as baseless and unfounded allegations that the Senate Presdent Abubakar Bukola Saraki masterminded the invitation to Lamorde by Committee .
Interim Chairman, Senate Ad hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Dino Melaye, in a statement on behalf of the Senate made available to reporters in Abuja yesterday, said that the allegations were the handiwork of enemies of the 8th Senat.e “The attention of the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Media and Publicity has been drawn to media reports to the extent that the Senate is allegedly divided over the invitation of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Lamorde, by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions. “This office wishes to state categorically that the allegation is false and that it could only have emanated from the imagination of those, who do not want the 8th Senate to succeed .
“The Committee also wishes to state that the Senate will not be blackmailed into abandoning its constitutional mandate, which includes, but not limited to investigating any issue brought before it,” he stated. Melaye further supported the action of the Committee, as backed by the Constitution. “For the avoidance of doubt, Order 103 of the Senate Standing Orders specifically states that: ‘In the exercise of the powers conferred on the National Assembly by sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Senate shall have power to direct or cause to be directed an investigation into any matter.’
“We wish to equally state that attempts to undermine the Senate’s summon on the basis that the petition in question was sent through a senator rather to the Senate is rather begging the question as petitions to the Senate can either be sent to the Senate President directly or through individual Senators for onward presentation to the Senate.
“In this instance, the petitioner, George Uboh, sent his petition through the Senator representing his district, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North) who in turn delivered it to the Office of the Senate President. “Moreover, there can be no controversy as to how a communication from members of the public through their representatives should be tendered before the Senate because Order 25(c) of the Senate Standing Orders makes it abundantly clear that ‘he (Senate President) shall receive all communications addressed to the Senate.’ “Needless to say that it is a normal parliamentary practice the world over for the Senate President after receiving a communication to forward it to the relevant committee for necessary legislative work, whether the Senate is in session or not .
“Although, the Senate is not in session, it had made it clear that some of its critical committees will continue to carry out their necessary functions without hindrance. “Furthermore, the Senate wishes to state that allegations that the petitioner was allegedly sponsored by the President of Senate is totally false as it is unfounded, satanic, ungodly, callous, myopic and a figment of the imagination of those out to promote division in the Senate. “It should be noted that there are other petitions calling for the investigation of the Comptroller-General of Customs and Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Services. In fact, invitation had been extended to the FIRS boss before the recent leadership in the agency.
So, the logical question arising from this is: Is the Senate President also the one who instigated the petition against these agencies and their heads? For what purpose? “However, these agents of division who are sponsoring stories to undermine the Senate and its leadership shall not succeed because the 8th Senate under the leadership of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki remains United and focused on its commitment to bring about desired change in all aspect of our national life.
“Therefore, it will not be distracted or derailed by baseless allegations which can only find traction in idle minds,” he stated. He also refuted claims that its invitation to the Chairman otfh e Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to appear before it to answer questions on his alleged complicity in the diversion of funds amounting to N1 trillion has any link with the quizzing of the wife of the Senate President, Mrs. Tonye Saraki, by the EFCC in July. Melaye, stated in Abuja that the petition against the EFCC boss raised very serious issues that could not be ignored by the Seante.
The fraud allegedly committed by the leadership of the EFCC dated back to Lamorde’s days as the Director of Operations of the EFCC between 2003 and 2007, and as acting Chairman of the Commission between the period of June 2007 to May 2008, when the then Chairman of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, was away on a course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos. Melaye added that the Senate is not on vendetta mission, but must be seen to be very responsive and responsible to Nigerians on issues bordering on corruption, which had for years held Nigeria to a standstill. The petition, he said, drew the attention of the Senate to allegations of corrupt practices against the person entrusted with the job of piloting the country’s crusade against corruption.
He added that there was no way the Senate would look away from it. “Would you prefer that the Senate should close its eyes and ears to that? The personality of the Chairman of the EFCC must be such that is substantially free from corruption so that he could freely deliver on the mandate of purging the country of the evil of corruption. “The Constitution placed the responsibility of exposing corruption on the Senate in order to check against the type of situation where persons mandated to carry out some jobs that are of strategic importance to the country’s growth turn round to grossly abuse such positions,” he said. Joining issues with the PDP caucus, the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions frowned at the position and pooh-poohed it.
Chairman of the Committee on Ethics noted that the call was based on misinformation. According to Anyanwu, in an interview session with journalists Monday, the PDP leadership in the Senate, namely: the Minority Leader, Senator Godwill Akpabio; Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Philip Aduda; Minority Whip, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha and Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, confused his committee’s invitation to Lamorde to a failed one, earlier moved on the floor of the Senate in the form of an amendment to a prayer in a motion. He said that Lamorde’s scheduled appearance before his committee on Wednesday along with the man, who alleged him to be involved in N1 trillion scam, is a fall out of a petition to that effect, which falls within the ambit of the functions of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition.
“As the Chairman Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, I am answerable to the Senate in the first instance. Two, this Committee attends to every petitions that come from the public and the invitation to the EFCC boss is one of those petitions and the petitioner is going to appear before the Committee. “If you look at the press statement by the Senate Minority Leader and by extension, PDP leader, Senator Akpabio, it was a misinformation.
This is so because he is wrongly linking Lamorde and other invitation to what happened on the floor of the Senate weeks ago when an attempted amendment of a prayer in motion, where the CBN Governor (Mr. Godwin Emefiele) was to be invited with the EFCC boss regarding money laundering and all that, but rejected. So, their statement was clearly based on misinformation,” Anyanwu explained. He added that the Committee is going ahead with the probe today. “This is a standing committee of the Senate. It is not only EFCC boss that was invited. There are other petitions, which we have invited the petitioners and those petitioned against. ‘We have FIRS, Comptroller General of Customs that are also coming on Tuesday. So, I don’t know why this should be an issue. We are guided by the Senate Standing Rule and the 1999 Constitution to invite anybody when the matter arises,” he added. When asked what next in case the embattled EFCC boss refuses to honour the invitation, he said: “I cannot conclude that now because I don’t want to pre-empt anything for now”.
He, however, allayed fears that the move against Lamorde by the Committee is not vindictive in anyway as being perceived in some quarters. “There are many ways the Senate can operate, at the Plenary, committee and the constituency. We are on vacation. A committee like Ethics and Privileges, we have a lot petitions, and now that we are on recess, each member agrees to spend their time to work. And we have to turn in the report of these petitions at the floor of the Senate for the consideration of the entire Senate. “We have so many petitions, up to 10 petitions. This is the summary of petitions received so far. That of EFCC is one of them and FIRS and so many of them. There is no situation that because we are on recess we cannot sit. “Two, the issue of invitation of Senate President’s wife has nothing to do with our job. It is not on that basis (motion) that we are inviting the EFCC boss. This Committee is a fact-finding committee.
Our job is: every petition that comes to this committee must be treated. “There is one implication. If somebody says there is a petition against the EFCC boss, the person is a Nigerian. He has the right, and as long as he will come before the Committee to substantiate the petition, we must take it serious. Because if you don’t take it up, what you will hear is that people will say probably we have been settled; that is why we didn’t bring up the matter. It’s only a mere allegation. We cannot convict anybody, we are not a law court,” Anyanwu said. He, however, said that the divergent positions of the lawmakers over Wednesday’s probe exercise have not in anyway created a divided senate. “There is no divided Senate. It is just a misinformation on the part of the PDP caucus.
At least somebody can be misinformed and when you get the accurate information instead of going back to counter, you will keep quiet and join others in doing the right thing,” he explained. As to the second question Uboh, a security expert and Chief Executive Officer of Panic Alert Security Systems. He channeled his petition through the Senator from his constituency in Delta State, Senator Peter Nwaonosis. He recommended that Lamorde be prosecuted, proposing 10 counts of fraud in his petition, which was addressed to the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, through the Delta State senator in the National Assembly, Peter Nwaoboshi.
Then on Wednesday it opened hearing on an allegation on a dramatic note. Mr. George Uboh, who, under an oath, went on to disclose that the anti graft body, has defrauded the country to the tune of N2.051 trillion from seized properties and funds of individuals under investigation by the Commission. This is even as the Senator Samuel Anyanwu, Chairman of the Committee walked out from the hearing room the EFCC officials led by the Head of Legal Services Mr. Chile Okoroma, During his submission, Uboh also alleged that Lamorde gave out some of the choice properties seized from a former Governor of Bayelsa State, DSP Alamieyesigha, and others to his (Lamorde) younger brother, Mr. Usman Lamorde. Uboh further made series of submissions, indicating that the anti graft body must have defrauded the country to the tune of N2.051 trillion from seized properties and funds of individuals under investigation by the Commission.
“In a December 2, 2011, EFCC letter sent to the Chairman, House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, EFCC stated that the aggregate recoveries from 2004 to 2011 (8 financial years) was N1,326,754,554,482:80. EFCC did not mention where the N1.3 trillion recovered was remitted. EFCC’s claim that it did not recover up to a trillion is complete false,” Uboh said. His breakdown include: 2004 – N7,070,693,130:00; 2005 – N965,651,737,039:00; 2006 -N6,622,261,783:79; 2007 -N7,700,150,381:20; 2008 -N18,141,628,546:98; 2009 -N130,885,187,726:83; 2010 -N52,877,464,867:00; and 2011 -N137,805,431,008:08.
“In EFCC’s “Summary of EFCC Monetary Recoveries 2003 – MARCH 2013” (11 financial years), EFCC stated that the aggregate recoveries for 11 financial years is N497,385,427,485:63; EFCC did not mention where the N497.3 billion recovered was remitted to, going by the following breakdown: 2003 -N974,783,213:06; 2004 -N21,018,557,263:28; 2005 -N71,053,996,008:60; 2006 -N8,199,908,189:03; 2007 -N41,479,032,319:70; 2008 -N44,542,822,622:30; 2009 -N255,306,693,033:55; 2010 -N10,559,513,355:91; 2011 -N11,117,460,717:88; 2012 -N27,844,769,688:19; and 2013 -N5,287,891,074:13,” he added. Uboh, who stated that the documents submitted were prepared under the chairmanship of Lamorde, went further to disclose that total recoveries to be remitted as confirmed by EFCC are: 1.995 trillion plus 48.9 billion plus 7.3 billion plus 4 billion = N 2.051 trillion. He, therefore, asked: “After recovering over N2 trillion, how did the funds melt away?” He went further to allege that in defrauding the nation of seized funds from corrupt Nigerians under investigation, EFCC, under Lamorde, also indulges in doctoring of bank accounts and diversion of already seized loots.
“Two access bank recovery account statements tendered herein show Opening balances of -0- as of 1, July 2004, but no transaction occurred until June/ July 2008 respectively. These transactions are expunged. Where are the funds deposited between July 2004 and June/July, 2008? “EFCC diverted and concealed N779 million of recoveries from Tafa Balogun in its record (aggregate should be N3,037,255,521.60 – not N2,258,100,516.98); instead of transferring N3.3 billion from Spring bank to its Access Bank recovery account, EFCC transferred only N2.2 billion and concealed it by understating the summation of the balances in the various accounts hence the access bank statement had N2.2 billion, after the concealment,” Uboh said.
In his conclusion, Uboh urged the Committee to urge the Federal Government to compel EFCC to remit N2.051 trillion to the Federal Government of Nigeria. “Access Bank should be compelled to bring complete and unadulterated statements from 2004 till date. Aminu Ibrahim and Co. Auditors, should be compelled to come and shed more light on discrepancies in its records and that of the already traced EFCC accounts,” he added. In the middle of Uboh’s submission, the EFCC officials, led Okoroma, walked themselves into trouble at the hearing by seeking for permission to make contributions, despite an earlier request made by the Commission for an extension of date of appearance before the Committee. After hearing the submissions of the petitioner against the EFCC boss, Okoroma sought for permission to make some comments but he was cut short when the Committee members sought his identity and that of his other colleagues.
Their disclosure of being officials of the EFCC did not go down well with the Chairman and other members of the Committee, based on the fact that, as a body, EFCC had earlier forwarded an official letter to the Committee on Tuesday morning for extension of date of appearance of its Chairman, Lamorde, before the Committee in respect of the petition. But Okoroma went ahead to make his comment without permission by describing the method being adopted by the Committee to conduct the public hearing as unjust and contrary to the law. “It is very wrong for a petitioner to be heard publicly in the absence of the person the petition is against,” he said.
His outburst made a member of the Committee, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, to request that the EFCC officials be walked out from the session since they were not even expected to be in attendance, let alone administered an oath for the purposes of commenting at the session. “Mr. Chairman, in line with our tradition and relevant rules governing this type of session, since Okoroma and the other EFCC officials here, are not known to have been here in the first place, but decided to be here and even went ahead to start commenting without being administered oath for that purpose, I move that the Chairman walk them out of the session,” Ibrahim said.
Riding on the motion, the Chairman of the Committee spontaneously acted by asking the three EFCC officials and other lawyers, who accompanied them, to immediately leave the venue of the hearing session. But Okoroma even, after being walked out of the session, still insisted that the method being adopted by the Committee in hearing the petitioner, was illegal and unjustifiable. “This Committee is a committee of the Senate, known as one of the lawmaking institutions in the country, but what we are seeing today, is law breaking because it is wrong for a petitioner to be heard in the public in the absence of the person, the entire petition is against,” Okoroma said. Thereafter, the Committee Chairman said that the allegations were very weighty and the committee will look into them very seriously but added that, they are on a facts-finding mission and not out to run down anybody or agency.
-Teddy Nwanunobi in Abuja X-rays the looming fight in the Senate over the decision of the Upper Chamber to probe EFCC, Chairman Ibrahim Larmode