14th August, 2018
CACOL HAILS EFCC FOR FREEZING SLUSH FUNDS IN BENUE AND AKWA IBOM
The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL)has hailed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for freezing bank accounts suspected to contain slush funds from the coffers of Akwa-Ibom and Benue State governments.
In a press release issued by Otunuga Adegboyega, CACOL’s Coordinator, Media and Publications on behalf of the Centre’s Executive Chairman, Mr Debo Adeniran he stated: “CACOL has justifiable reasons to praise the activities of EFCC for freezing the accounts of individuals or any government official perceived to be laundering funds belonging to a state government. That is clearly within the purview of the anti-graft agency. Take for instance, the case of Akwa-Ibom State where the governor, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, has been shouting hoarse on the freezing of the state government’s accounts. What we have established is that about N1.4b which emanated from the coffers of Akwa-Ibom state was traced to 11 eleven accounts of eight leading lawyers in the country.
“When one of these lawyers was interviewed, he claimed the deposits were legal fees for 16 cases he handled for the government. However, he failed to produce evidence of any agreement between his firm and the state government. Another cause for suspicion was the fact that hundreds of millions of naira were paid in cash as against government’s standard practice of paying with cheques. This glaringly indicates a possibility of money laundering and misappropriation of public funds which the EFCC is not only empowered to probe, but also freeze, pending full investigations.
“However, instead of the state government to allow individuals identified to be connected to this scam be interrogated, they have resorted to blackmail and cheap propaganda.
“Even in the case of Benue State where EFCC has been inviting lawmakers and other government officials, the question we should ask is whether funds were actually misappropriated or not? The law that set up EFCC empowers the agency to investigate a sitting governor or president. It is based on the proviso that such incumbent governor or serving president cannot be summoned for questioning or subjected to any trial while he is still in office.
According to the EFCC file, the Benue state government has been under investigation since 2015, when evidence indicated that Governor Samuel Ortom willfully diverted billions of Naira belonging to the state to personal accounts. For instance, despite the fact that about N19b was budgeted to be paid to six security agencies deployed to address the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the state, only N3b was eventually paid with the rest of the money unaccounted for. He was also reported by the EFCC to have refused to pay workers’ salaries for months, despite withdrawal of about N1.3b for that purpose from the Joint State and Local Government Account.”
The CACOL boss asked: “Considering all these weighty allegations, do you blame the EFCC for halting the drift towards bankruptcy in the affected states just because the governors are flaunting the immunity clause which the anti-graft body recognizes and respects, but which should not prevent it from performing its statutory duties? What Ortom keeps on harping upon is that once the anti-graft agency queries a government official, it is as good as harassing the sitting governor himself.
Our position is that let those being interrogated absolve themselves of any blame, while EFCC is allowed to carry out its functions in line with the law. The essence of these operations is to eliminate corruption knowing fully well that no matter how long it takes, nemesis will always catch up with corrupt public officers”.
Media Coordinator, CACOL
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