- Category: Law, Crime & Judiciary
- Published on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 06:44
- Written by Nation
- Hits: 1229
Officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are set to interrogate former Minister of Federal Capital Territory Nasir el-Rufai over sales of government houses and allocation of 51,133 plots of land.
Some of the plots were allegedly allocated to his wives and relatives.
But el-Rufai’s lawyer, Mr. A.U. Mustapha, said the ex-Minister is ready to clear his name.
After several attempts, the EFCC yesterday succeeded in serving el-Rufai a notice of his invitation through one of his friends, Othman.
According to the invitation letter, signed by the EFCC’s Director of Operations, Steve Otitoju, el-Rufai is expected today at 10am.
A highly-placed source, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said: "Initially, we had it rough serving el-Rufai a letter of invitation on Monday. Each time we went there, the police in his house and the domestic staff said they were told not to receive any letter.
"We eventually got a friend of the ex-Minister to receive the letter and he promised to deliver it to him.
"The EFCC chairman has already raised a team that will interrogate el-Rufai on the allegations against him.
"We are hopeful that the ex-Minister will honour the invitation of this commission as he has always pledged."
The Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Femi Babafemi, confirmed that the invitation was delivered to el-Rufai on Monday.
He said: "We are expecting the former Minister on Tuesday."
Another source in the commission said the ex-Minister may be questioned on sales of government houses and allocation of 51,133 plots of land in the FCT during his tenure.
The allegations border on alleged reallocation of a parcel of land, No 1201, in Asokoro District and Plot 3352 (Maitama District) by el-Rufai to his wife, associates and a company in which he had vested interest.
Some of the parcels of land were originally designated in the FCT Master Plan for power transmitting sub-station by the Power Holding Company (PHCN) and the Nigeria Postal Service.
A document obtained by The Nation revealed the identities of el-Rufai’s relatives who allegedly got choice plots in Asokoro, Wuse II, Maitama, Jabi, Kubwa, and Utako districts.
On the list are: Hadiza Isma el-Rufai (Plot 3379 Asokoro); Bashir el-Rufai (Plot 1381 Wuse II); Aisha Ahmad el-Rufai (Plot 3376 Asokoro); Ibrahim el-Rufai(Plot 3677 Maitama); Binta Ahmed el-Rufai ( Plot 871 Jabi); Hadiza Isma el-Rufai (Plot 1417 Kubwa); Tijani Ahmed el-Rufai (Plot 4062 Bwari); Rufai Hanga (Plot 1132 Utako); Ali Rufai (Plot 3861 Asokoro); and Sani Ahmed Gwadu (Plot 363 Utako).
The ex-minister had appeared before the Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory, which investigated the sale of all Federal Government houses in Abuja, demolition of structures, revocation of titles and concession of properties between 1999 and 2007.
The Committee, led by Senator Abubakar Danso Sodangi, indicted the el-Rufai.
But el-Rufai went to court to challenge the panel’s report.
The EFCC arraigned el-Rufai before a Federal High Court, Abuja on an eight-count charge bordering on abuse of office.
Speaking with The Nation last night, el-Rufai’s counsel, Mr A.U. Mustapha, said: "The ex-Minister does not have anything to hide. As a matter of fact, it was el-Rufai that wrote the EFCC on his readiness to appear before the commission whenever it is convenient for them.
"If as a counsel my client can ask me to write, what does he have to hide? He is not hiding anything; he is ready to answer any allegation. We are ready for the EFCC; we will be with the commission on Tuesday.
"Also, el-Rufai will be in court on Thursday in respect of the charges against him."
el-Rufai accused the EFCC of shifting the allegation against him from N32billion missing funds to N1.6billion.
He explained why he would honor the EFCC’s invitation, in a statement by his media consultant, Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye, in Abuja.
The statement accused the EFCC of mounting a campaign of falsehood and innuendo against el-Rufai.
The statement said el-Rufai would be in court on Thursday, which is the next adjourned date for the case the Federal Government has filed against him (FRN v. El Rufai; ABJ/CR/60/2009), pending before Justice Bello. "There is no need for precipitate haste on the part of the EFCC to arrest him on this matter," it said.
It said el-Rufai would like the "vexed issue of N32 billion" addressed. Hence, he went to court to seek its declaration that no such funds went missing under his watch. "The EFCC has been misleading public opinion on this matter by persistently insinuating that it has evidence that N32 billion is missing from the proceeds of the sale of public houses.
"After two years of lying, it is now saying that only N1.6 billion is missing. There is no doubt that the perverse fiction that contrived the tale of N32 billion, then shrank it to N1.6 billion, will ultimately collapse and be displaced by the fact that no such funds disappeared. Malice can only go so far!" the statement said.
It went on: "This N32 billion saga was supposed to be the trump card in the failed attempt to destroy el-Rufai. It first reared its head during the Senate committee hearings on the FCT in 2008.
"But because there was no substance to it, the allegation did not even feature in either the committee’s final report or in the decision of the entire Senate on the committee’s report.
"The government had in late 2008 also announced that it had recovered the said monies from the banks in which el-Rufai’s successor as FCT minister had placed them.
"The next adjourned date for this matter, el-Rufai v. EFCC & 12 ORS (FHC/ABJ/CS/69/08) is 14 June 2010, and Mallam el-Rufai would be there on that day as well."