Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has declared its lack of confidence in the Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee of the Senate as it commenced hearing on a petition by George Uboh, alleging the diversion by the Chairman of the Commission, Ibrahim Lamorde, of N1trillion of recovered assets.
In an unsigned statement allegedly by the Commission, the EFCC declared that the Committee lacked objectivity and that it was not likely to get a fair hearing. The claim followed an incident at the hearing in which a delegation sent to observe the proceedings was reportedly walked out by the members of the Committee on the pretext that the EFCC had earlier written that it would not be present at the hearing.
According to the statement, petitioner Ugbo was mid-way through his presentation to the Committee when the EFCC delegation, led by Chile Okoroma, its Director, Legal and Prosecution, arrived. The statement did not say why the delegation was late.
“Okoroma immediately sought to know whether it was the normal procedure for the senate to conduct its hearing with only one of the parties present,” the commission said. Dino Melaye, who chairs the Senate Committee on Information, said in response that the committee was at liberty to adopt any format it deemed fit.
“They claimed that the Commission was not expected at the hearing, having written to be excused. They proceeded to read the letter from the EFCC, where the Commission asked for another date to be present at the hearing but omitted the portion where the EFCC disclosed that the petitioner is an accused under prosecution by the Commission, on fraud charges.”
According to the statement, Okoroma insisted that it amounted to lack of fair hearing for the proceedings to continue in the absence of the EFCC, while also observing that the documents presented to the Committee by the petitioner were not made available to the Commission. The Director wondered how the Commission was supposed to respond to them.
Okoroma also stated that the narration by Uboh only contained reference to the EFCC and not to chairman Lamorde even though the hearing was advertised as a probe of Lamorde.It described “the charade in the senate” to be a direct threat to the anti-corruption agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Quoting an un-named Senate source, the EFCC statement said: “The so called hearing is a Bukola Saraki /James Ibori agenda to once again destabilize the EFCC. They are trying to take their pound of flesh of the Commission for having the courage to investigate them. The duo orchestrated the removal of pioneer chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu and they believe they can do same to Lamorde.”
It said that that situation was not surprising as Peter Nwaoboshi, the Chairman of the Ethics Committee, is an Ibori sidekick who served as commissioner to the convicted former governor of Delta state. It stated that although Nwaoboshi is a first term senator, he has already earned a reputation as a rabid Saraki acolyte. “Nwaoboshi and Melaye were part of the bodyguard of law makers that escorted Toyin Saraki, wife of the senate president, Bukola Saraki, to the EFCC, where she was recently quizzed for corruption offences.
“In their design to distract the leadership of the EFCC under Lamorde, they found a worthy ally in a suspected fraudster, Uboh who is standing trial before Justice J, Aladetoyinbo of the FCT High Court on three counts of fraud (FRN v George Uboh CR/12/09). He is alleged to have converted properties belonging to the Police Equipment Fund,” the statement continued. It described Uboh as a felon who was once convicted for wire fraud in Georgia, United States.