When news first filtered into public domain that the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, had been summoned to appear before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition to answer allegations of graft brought against him, it came as a rude shock to many.
The reason for the furore is not farfetched. If the boss of an organization such as the EFCC, a body mandated to checkmate fraud and fight financial crimes to a standstill, is indicted for corruption, doesn’t that call to questions everything the commission stands for and everything it had achieved in the past?
Although the details surrounding the purported corruption charge brought against Mr. Lamorde are still sketchy at best, and no one has been indicted yet, many keen observers are of the opinion that for a case of graft to be brought up against Lamorde in the first place is worrisome and calls for concern. After all, as the axiom goes, there can be no smoke without fire.
It will be noted that the petition against the Commission was brought by Mr. George Uboh, the CEO of Panic Alert Security Systems. Mr. Uboh had written to the National Assembly, accusing the EFCC of diverting monies to the tune of N1 trillion being recovered assets from public corrupt officials. The loot in question included those recovered from former police IG, Tafa Balogun and former Governor of Bayelsa state, Depriye Alamieyeseigha.
Uboh had said in his petition that the Commission operates hidden accounts where recovered funds were kept and thus do not reflect in EFCC’s audited accounts. Among other accusations, Uboh also stated in his petition to the senate that over 95 per cent of EFCC’s recoveries in foreign currencies have been diverted, and that the Commission trades with recovered funds through bank deposits and placements.
In refuting the accusations, the EFCC Chairman, Mr. Lamorde said that he was not afraid to be investigated by the Senate. Speaking through the Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Wilson Uwajuren, Lamorde challenged any individuals or groups with incriminating evidence of corruption against the Commission to step forward.
“EFCC as an agency founded on transparency is not afraid of any probe or request from information regarding its activities…so far as the requests follow due process of law,” said the statement.
And that brings another twist to the tale, as EFCC has vehemently questioned the motive and procedure of the planned Senate probe of its activities. The commission found it suspicious that the said petition leveled against it by Mr. Uboh was not sent directly to the Senate, but to a member of the Senate in the person of Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, a first term Senator representing Delta north.
This fact, insists the Commission, calls to question the source of the petition itself. “Under the senate rules, petitions meant for consideration by the red chamber are sent to the senate, not to a member of the senate,” said the EFCC.
In the same vein, a group known as the Civil Society Engagement Platform has equally expressed misgivings over the whole drama. The Director of the group, Emmanuel Nwosu, who made the position of his group known recently, suggested that there was more to the petition against the EFCC than meets the eyes. He said it could be the attempt of some disgruntled political elements to trivialize the war against graft by distracting the Commission from its goal.
According the group, the accusation against Mr. Lamorde and the EFCC are frivolous and lacks substance. Nwosu therefore called upon President Buhari not to be teleguided to move against the EFCC, as any unnecessary probes against the anti-graft Commission will merely become a distraction.
As Nigerians watch the unfolding drama in the EFCC/Lamorde corruption case with accusations and counter-accusation going back and forth on the table, there may be another worrying angle to the story. An attempt has been made to connect the crisis presently rocking the EFCC with the previous case that the Commission brought against the wife of the Senate President, Toyin Saraka. The suggestion is that, the EFCC is most likely being punished for attempting to drag the name of Senator Bukola in the dirt.
Saraki has however debunked such insinuations, insisting that he has nothing to do with the present crisis rocking the EFCC. “To set the record straight,” Senator Saraki stated through his media office, “nobody can rightfully claim that Saraki engaged the services of the petition or any other person for that matter.”
While Nigerians wait to see what would eventually become of the corruption petition against Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, it remains clear that there appears to be many lose ends around the case, more to it than meet the eyes. Does Lamorde receive repatriated stolen funds into his private account? Which banks were involved in the shady transactions? who is the account officer privy to the fraudulent transactions? Was the sum of money lodged in one accounts or many accounts? Was it deposited in Nigeria or in foreign bank? Why was the money in question not captured in EFCC audited account? Was this money captured in previous years EFCC audited accounts?
Also, who really is the petitioner, Mr. George Uboh and what links does he have with Senator Nwaoboshi? What’s his stake in the whole matter?
The answers to these critical questions just might be the key to unraveling the mystery surrounding the petition against the EFCC