- Category: Law, Crime & Judiciary
- Published on Sunday, 04 September 2011 06:59
- Written by Admin
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More trouble appears on the horizon for the embattled Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Sabitu Ikuforiji, over an alleged N7 billion fraud as operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have reportedly stormed Lagos to fish out his hidden assets.
A commission source told the Sunday Tribune that the auto shop was found closed down with the sign-post announcing the firm equally removed.
In the petition authored by Nigeria Anti-Corruption Vanguard which led to his arrest, Ikuforiji was alleged to have been diverting a monthly running cost of N500 million on a first line charge to abroad to buy properties through proxies as well as his automobile company.
The Commission’s operatives were said to be combing the entire state to uncover the secret location of the hidden vehicles. If discovered, they might be confiscated.
Commission’s spokesperson, Mr. Femi Babafemi, told the Sunday Tribune that investigation was on-going on the matter.
A source also revealed that Ikuforiji’s diplomatic and international passports had been seized.
It was further learnt that he might have been be admitted to administrative bail yesterday, while he had been reportedly moved back to Lagos from Abuja at the weekend.
The seizure of his passports, especially the diplomatic passport, according to a source, was to forestall any attempt to tamper with the international aspect of the investigation as it involves the allegations of using stolen funds to acquire property abroad and double conviction in the United States of America.
It was learnt that the anti-corruption commission would explore working relationship with the United States of America to demand for his record of conviction if such truly exists.
Sunday Tribune source did not rule out a visit to the countries mentioned in the petition against him by the team handling his investigation.
Unconfirmed reports had linked the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, and the National Legal Adviser of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Muiz Banire, with the petition.
A source in the Commission however debunked the claim, noting that it was from one of the anti-corruption human rights groups.
However, Sunday Tribune gathered that his travail has opened up political insinuations that might not be unconnected with internal squabbles within the Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN) in the state, especially over the gubernatorial ambition of some notable members of the party.
A source who spoke under condition of anonymity said the speaker has scores to settle with the leadership of the party, but the national spokesperson of the Party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a telephone interview, said he had no comment on the arrest until the party heard from the speaker on the rationale behind his arrest.
Meanwhile, the arrest of Ikuforiji by EFCC has further rekindled the crisis in the Lagos State House of Assembly that started prior to his re-election as the speaker of the House last June. Sunday Tribune learnt that members of the House are now divided, with some speaking against the embattled speaker while some are saying that the probe of Ikuforiji was designed. Those who are holding onto the latter opinion are also alleging that those who masterminded the petition are those working for Dr. Muiz Banire, who was interested in the 2015 governorship race along with Ikuforiji..
Banire and Ikuforiji had showed interest in the race when the face-off between the leader of the ACN, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the state governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, was rife but when the two reconciled their differences and Fashola was picked for a second term, they suspended their ambitions till 2015.
Banire was said to have rallied the support of some leaders of the party such as Alhaji Tajudeen Olusi, Chief Bushura Alebiosu, some members of the state assembly such as Honourables Funmilayo Tejuosho, Ibrahim Layode, Suru Avoseh and some lawmakers.
The feeling among supporters of Ikuforiji was that Asiwaju Tinubu is giving tactical support to the Banire camp because Funmilayo Tejuosho was not picked as deputy speaker.
According to a source in the House, if Tinubu was not backing those that petitioned EFCC, the matter would have been resolved within the party, but since he decided to drop the speaker after he had been used to checkmate Fashola during their crisis, he has allowed him to face the music alone .
When Banire was contacted on phone to speak on the role he played in the petition, he did not pick his call but in a reaction to a text message sent to him, he said, ”Please crosscheck with EFCC who the petitioner is.”
Meanwhile, an aide to the speaker, who did not want his name in print, has leapt to the defence of his boss. He said, “Is it possible for the speaker to collect N500 million running cost and pocket it? Have lawmakers and staff of the House not been going abroad for training? Have they not been collecting their running cost? The essence of the probe is politically motivated and it has to do with his ambition to run for governorship race in 2015.”
Expressing a different view, a former member of the House who was in the Assembly between 2003 to 2011, said people should stop reading political motive to the probe, while he added that the allegations against Ikuforiji might not be untrue afterall.
He explained that the decision of Ikuforiji to cheat on his colleagues has not just started but that it has been on for a while, stressing that “now his cup is full.”
The lawmaker added that if people were saying the probe was an attempt to frustrate his ambition, he wondered about the crime he was alleged to have committed in America , if that was also politically motivated .
According to him Ikuforiji should account for how he has spent the money meant for the running of the House , because what each lawmaker gets as running cost was just about 400,000 Naira per month .He wondered how he spent the remaining amount .
Reacting to the arrest of Ikuforiji, the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) stated, Lagos state government, particularly, Governor Babatunde Fashola, is culpable for signing a budget, allocating N500m monthly to the speaker.
Its spokesperson, Barrister Taofik Gani, added, “no wonder obnoxious and ill-considered laws like, LCDA, KAI, LASTMA, Land Use Charge and the tenancy law abound in the state.” (Sunday Tribune)