- Category: Politics
- Published on Monday, 06 September 2010 08:25
- Written by Nigerian Compass
- Hits: 1567
AS operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) intensify their efforts to bring alleged corrupt politicians to book, some governors, whose states have been targeted by the anti-graft agency, have declared that they have no reason to fear the body.
Already, EFCC officials have stormed Rivers and Imo states and it is believed that this week, they will move to Bauchi, Gombe, Kwara, Katsina, Sokoto and a few others to look into the books of the governments because of the “deluge of petitions” against them.
Some of the governors have linked the action to the 2011 elections, because of the popular thinking that they are not ready to back the ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan is yet to declare his intention to retain his seat next year.
Some of the governors, who spoke at the weekend, are Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Ikedi Ohakim (Imo); Isa Yuguda (Bauchi) and Danjuma Goje (Gombe).
But, the EFCC said it would not be intimidated by the “amount of propaganda” by the governors, saying: “We have a legitimate duty to investigate and prosecute all forms of economic and financial crimes in all parts of the federation. This, we have been doing since the inception of the commission in 2003 and we will continue to do within the ambit of the law.”
Yuguda, son-in-law of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, said there was no reason for him to be afraid of the EFCC operatives “because there is no skeleton in our cupboard in this state”.
It is believed that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, is already being groomed to replace Yuguda.
Speaking on behalf of the governor, his Senior Special Assistant (Media), Sanusi Mohammed, said the EFCC “is free to carry out its statutory function in any state it deems fit, including Bauchi.
“We have nothing to hide. The government has no skeleton in its cupboard; our record books are clean, our financial records are straight so, we are not afraid of EFCC”.
He added that the governor “is not in any way against the ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the presidential election in 2011”.
The media aide maintained that there was nothing wrong for EFCC to invade any state at any time to carry out its functions.
He said: “They should not be stopped by any one. As long as it is within the law, they should be allowed to do their job.
“President Goodluck Jonathan is a citizen of this country and he is free to contest election to test his acceptability by the people of the country so, we cannot, in any way, be a hindrance to his ambition.”
From Owerri, the Imo State capital, Ohakim said he was too busy to worry about the EFCC.
Speaking through the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dr Kelechi Okpareke, he dismissed the speculated clampdown on the state by the EFCC, as a non-issue because “we have no time for shadow-chasing”.
According to him, the EFCC is a statutory body set up by law with clear and specified mandate. They have a right to investigate any petition that falls within their jurisdiction in any state of the federation.
The commissioner said: “That notwithstanding, we are well aware that there is a clear line between investigation and intimidation or harassment, and we will naturally say no once they exceed the line for whatever reason.
“You may recall that Governor Ikedi Ohakim had in the recent past, voluntarily invited the ICPC to look at our books, because we have nothing to hide. In Imo State, we are too busy to worry about EFCC or ICPC. True enough, they have their jobs to do and we should also be allowed to do ours with no distraction.”
Okpareke, however, noted that whatever must have prompted the ‘clampdown’ speculation can only be valid “if it is in accordance with the refining principles of the rule of law”.
Amaechi declared that there was no reason to be worried over the EFCC invasion of his oil-rich state because a court order preventing the body from embarking on such an exercise still stands.
His Acting Chief Press Secretary, Blessing Wikina, noted that the state had nothing to hide, but that a ruling at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, “prevents the EFCC from investigating or arresting any official in our state”.
According to him, the state government was in support of EFCC’s fight against corruption, “but we are against its disregard for the rule of law”.
He added: “The EFCC exists due to an enabling law. The court judgement obtained by former Governor Peter Odili, restraining the EFCC from investigating or arresting any Rivers official, including the former governor, is still valid. The EFCC cannot do otherwise unless it gets a superior order that vacates that ruling.”
He declared that the government was not bothered by the recent investigation of three local government chairmen, and two commissioners by the EFCC because it was “politically motivated and a violation of the rule of law”.
Those being investigated by the EFCC in the state are: Azubuike Emerigini of Port Harcourt City Council; Timothy Nsirim of Obio/Akpor Council and Kerian Nwobodo of Ikwerre Council, as well as the Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Dr. Tammy Danagogo and his counterpart in the Finance ministry, Mr. George Feyii.
According to Wikina, the last time the anti-graft agency invited the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Magnus Abbey, and the Chief of Staff, Government House, Nyesom Nwike, to Abuja for questioning over allegations of money laundering, it could not go ahead with the investigation because it was restrained by the court order.
He noted that the renewed investigation by the EFCC was politically motivated, and that Amaechi was not new to such witch hunting, having being investigated before the 2007 governorship elections.
He added: “Before Governor Amaechi contested the 2007 elections, the EFCC, during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, investigated him, but did not find him wanting. The same thing is repeating itself. But the state government will not go to court, because the court has decided on the matter.
“The EFCC has to get a superior order to vacate the ruling by the court on the matter. It’s a very simple matter,” he said.
In Gombe, top government officials have remained undaunted even in the face of reports that EFCC operatives will this week visit the state with the aim of arresting key politicians and government contractors over allegations of graft and official highhandedness.
Gombe is one of the few states where EFCC last week allegedly concluded plans to carry out special investigations through a dispatch of its team of crack investigators.
One of Goje’s aides said that the way the body was going about its work “is an indication that the anti-corruption crusade of the Federal Government is just a charade. They have targetted some people and it is not right. Anybody can come and investigate Governor Goje if it is within the law but anything done to witchhunt our hardworking governor will be resisted because you can’t just come and rubbish what he has done since 2003".
An informed source said Goje, at an emergency meeting conveyed over the development, had instructed all commissioners and local government chairmen that are likely targets of the raid to remain calm even in the face of any intimidation from the team which may arrive Gombe before the end of Ramadan.
The popular thinking within government circle in the North-East state is that any politician handpicked by EFCC is only suffering a collateral damage of an attack aimed at Goje believed to be main target.
Because the governor still enjoys immunity, at least two prominent politicians close to him, Inuwa Yahaya and Ibrahim Jalo Waziri, are being targetted by the EFCC.
Yahaya, who has been the Commissioner for Finance since 2003 to date, is believed to have all records of finances of the state while Waziri, the governor’s son-in-law and national chairman of ALGON, has being prepared to succeed him in 2011.
Efforts to get reactions of the duo failed as their mobile lines were not reachable when calls were repeatedly made to them.
Also gathered was that EFCC is interested in vital documents relating to the construction of the state university, state-owned airport and multi-billion naira water projects, contracts of which were believed to have been inflated.
To counter the EFCC move, a reliable source said the state government had already secured the services of a reputable Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) based in Abuja “to do everything possible in securing the immediate release of anyone detained by EFCC from our state.”
Another top government official said: “The EFCC move will be counter-productive for his (Jonathan) 2011 ambition. In the presence of all Nigerians here few months ago, the President gave the governor and the entire state government a clean bill of health for managing our little resources in putting in place major capital projects. So, if the situation changes suddenly, you should know that is a contradiction on his part”.
He disclosed that if the threat is eventually carried out, it will be the first time EFCC would be arresting Gombe officials, despite having its zonal headquarters in the state capital.