Senate Committee probing the N1trillion fraud levelled against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday walked out officials of the agency at its session at the National Assembly in Abuja.
This came as the committee was urged to compel the EFCC to remit N2.051trillion to the Federal Government coffers, being the money it allegedly diverted through its operations over the years.
The EFCC officials, led by Chile Okoroma, Head of Legal Services, walked into trouble at the hearing by seeking for permission to make contributions despite earlier request by the commission for extension of date of appearance before the committee.
After hearing the submissions of the petitioner against the EFCC boss, Okoroma sought for permission to make comments upon which his identity and that of his other colleagues were demanded for by Chairman of the Committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East).
Their disclosure of being officials of the EFCC did not go down well with the chairman and other members of the committee, based on the fact that as a body, the EFCC had earlier forwarded an official letter to the panel yesterday morning for extension of date of appearance of its Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde before the committee, in respect of the petition.
A concerned Nigerian, Dr. George Uboh, had written a petition against Lamorde, during a public hearing of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on the alleged scam.
Uboh had alleged that Lamorde gave some of the choice properties seized from former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyesigha and others to Usman Lamorde, his younger brother.
But Okoroma went ahead to make his comment without permission by describing the method being adopted by the committee to conduct the public hearing as unjust and contrary to the law, saying “ it is very wrong for a petitioner to be heard publicly in the absence of the person the petition is against.”
This was an outburst that made Senator Rafiu Ibrahim (APC, Kwara South) to request for the walking out of the EFCC officials from the session, since they were not even expected to be in attendance, let alone, administered oath, for the purposes of commenting at the session.
He said: “Mr. Chairman, in line with our tradition and relevant rules governing this type of session, since Okoroma and the other EFCC officials here are not known to have been here in the first place, but decided to be here and even went ahead to start commenting without being administered oath for that purpose, I move that the chairman walk them out of the session.”
A motion the committee chairman spontaneously acted upon by asking the three EFCC officials and other lawyers who accompanied them to immediately leave the venue of the session.
But Okoroma, after being walked out of the session, insisted that the method being adopted by the committee in hearing the petitioner was illegal and unjustifiable.
He said: “This committee is a committee of the Senate, known as one of the lawmaking institutions in the country but what we are seeing today (yesterday), is law-breaking because it is wrong for a petitioner to be heard in the public in the absence of the person, the entire petition is against.”
Meanwhile, Uboh made series of submissions backed with facts, indicating that the anti-graft body must have defrauded the country of N2.051trillion from seized properties and funds of individuals under investigation by the commission.
The petitioner, while comparing the first two submissions emanating from EFCC, said the commission doctored its records to conceal diversions.
According to him: “The 2011 submission is over N800billion higher than the 2013 submission despite two additional years of recoveries in the 2013 submission. Based on the records, because EFCC has not been able to account for over N800billion, the EFCC manipulated the above records and grossly understated recoveries in order to conceal the fraud.”
He listed recoveries in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN account not reflected in EFCC audited financial statements as N3.3billion in 2010 and N6billion in 2009.
On the doctoring of bank accounts, Uboh said: “Two Access Bank recovery account statements tendered herein show opening balances of -0- as of July 1, 2004, but no transaction occurred until June/July 2008, respectively.”
He further alleged that these transactions were expunged, asking “where are the funds deposited between July 2004 and June/July 2008?
“EFCC diverted and concealed N779 million of recoveries from Tafa Balogun in its record (aggregate should be N3,037,255,521.60 and not N2,258,100,516.98).
“Instead of transferring N3.3billion from Spring Bank to its Access Bank recovery account, EFCC transferred only N2.2billion and concealed it by understating the summation of the balances in the various accounts hence the Access Bank statement had N2.2billion after the concealment,” he alleged.
Uboh, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Panic Alert Security Systems, therefore urged the Senate to compel Access Bank to bring complete and unadulterated statements of the commission from 2004 till date.
Similarly, he said auditors of EFCC, Aminu Ibrahim and Co, should also be compelled to appear before the committee to shed light on the discrepancies in the commission’s accounts.
He went further by alleging that in defrauding the nation of seized funds from corrupt Nigerians under investigation, EFCC under Lamorde also indulges in doctoring of bank accounts and diversion of seized loots.
After his submissions, Senator Anyanwu said the “allegations are very weighty and the committee will look into them” and remarked that the lawmakers are on a fact-finding mission and not out to rundown anybody or the agency.
Pro-Lawan Senators declare Larmode’s probe illegal
Meanwhile, a group of senators opposed to the emergence of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki as the Senate President, under the aegis of Senator of Unity Forum, SUF, said that the ongoing probe of Lamorde by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions is illegal and a breach of the Senate Standing Rules.
In a statement by the group loyal to Senator Ahmed Lawan, the anointed candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC for the post of the Senate Presidency, explained that the probe did not follow due process.
“In a standard parliamentary practice, a petition is routed through either a senator or a member of the House of Representatives. Upon receipt of such petition, the representatives will inform the presiding officer of the chamber and, thereafter, present the petition in the plenary”, it stated.
The statement, signed by Senators Ahmed Lawman, George Akume, Abu Ibrahim and Barnabas Gemade reads further: “Upon presentation in plenary, the presiding officer will invite the Senator/House of Representatives to lay the same petition on the table of the chamber, which automatically becomes a public document.”
“Thereafter, the presiding officer will refer the petition to appropriate committee for consideration upon which it would be returned to the Senate plenary.
“In this regard, nothing of the sort happened. Senate proceeded on recess on August 13 and it is not on record that the petition of Mr. George Uboh, accusing Lamorde of diverting over N1trillion recovered from some corrupt Nigerians, including former governor of Bayelsa State, DSP Alamieyesiegha, former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun, was presented to Senate in Plenary.”