Since the Senate began investigation of a petition against the former EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, the former anti-graft czar disappeared from public radar until last week when he was sighted at NIPSS, Kuru, near Jos in Plateau State. MIKE ODIAKOSE writes on how the man formerly behind the trigger suddenly found himself in front of the nozzle of the anti-graft war.
The hide and seek game between the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Lamode, and the Senate came to a head last week when the upper chamber of the National Assembly gave permission to its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, headed by Senator Sam Anyanwu, to issue a warrant of arrest on Lamorde.
The Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges had last year commenced the probe of a petition by one Dr. George Uboh, accusing Lamorde of fraudulently diverting over N1 trillion, being funds recovered from several individuals including a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun, but the former boss of the anti-graft agency failed to appear before the committee since the commencement of the probe to state his own side of the story.
Following his refusal to appear before the committee, lawmakers were compelled to ask the Senate to issue a warrant of arrest against Lamorde to enable him answer for his activities during his tenure.
Uboh, who is an anti-corruption crusader and Chief Executive Officer of Panic Alert Security System, PASS, in the petition to both President Muhammadu Buhari and the Senate, alleged that Lamorde started hiding away these funds from 2003 when he was the Director of Operations of the EFCC till when he became the chairman.
According to him, “EFCC confirmed that several cheques and drafts valued at N1,577,815,942 and $1.3 million seized and forfeited by DSP Alamieyeseigha were deposited in the commission’s recovery account.
“An agent appointed to manage and dispose six real estate property forfeited by Alamieyeseigha, confirmed that N1.9 billion was remitted to the EFCC between 2008 and 2009 as proceeds from the sales and interests from the property.
“The agent confirmed remitting N60 billion vide Intercontinental Bank draft in 2008 as balance of rent, while N3.7 billion was confirmed by the EFCC as the amount received from Alamieyeseigha’s seized assets.”
According to the petitioner, the EFCC traded with N3.7 billion from March 2009 to February 2010 with 12 percent interest per annum, alleging that Lamorde failed to remit the interest of N1.1 billion to government, the sum which contains the N467.7million interest gotten from the actual N3.7 billion that was used to trade with.
“EFCC continued to trade with the balance of N1.1 billion from January 2010 to October 2013 with the interest rate of 12 percent per annum. This money yielded N474.2 million which should have accrued to the Bayelsa State Government but the EFCC is still keeping and trading with it,” he added.
Uboh, who also alleged that Lamorde failed to account for 95 percent of offshore assets and funds, said “EFCC declared a fraction of what was seized from Alamieyeseigha.”
The naira recovery, he alleged, was different from offshore recoveries, adding that “in a December 2, 2011 letter, EFCC sent to the chairman, House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, that the aggregate recoveries from 2004 to 2011 was N1.3 trillion. It did not mention where the N1.3 trillion recovered was remitted to.”
Uboh zeroed in on what the EFCC recovered, explaining that a former Chairman of the commission, Farida Waziri, told the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, that naira recovery was N1.9 trillion, while offshore recoveries stood at $316.1 million, €32.1 million and £1.2 million respectively, adding that Lamorde should have remitted N2.051 trillion to the government.
“EFCC diverted and concealed N779 million of recoveries from Tafa Balogun in its record (aggregate should be N3.037 billion and not N2.258 billion). Instead of transferring N3.3 billion from Spring Bank to its Access Bank recovery account, EFCC transferred only N2.2 billion and concealed it by understating the summation of the balances in the various accounts, hence the Access bank statement had N2.2 billion after concealment.
“EFCC would be compelled to pay Bayelsa the remittable amount due now with interest and it should be compelled to declare all offshore assets and funds seized from DSP and others. EFCC should be compelled to remit N2.051 trillion to the federal government while Access Bank should be forced to bring complete and unadulterated statements from 2004 till date.
“Aminu Ibrahim and co, auditors of the EFCC, should be compelled to come and shed light on the discrepancies,” he alleged.
Rather than go to the Senate to clear himself of the allegations levelled against him by Oboh, the former EFCC boss chose to clear himself through the BBC last year where he denied the allegations, saying Nigerians should not take it seriously because it was a smear campaign, as the EFCC was prosecuting the man making the allegations.
He told the BBC, “This showed that the case should not be taken seriously” and stressed that even if all the money recovered by the EFCC was added up, together with its funding from government, it would not total the alleged missing amount. How can we divert an amount we don’t have?” he asked.
He added that the exact figures of seized assets were in the process of being audited by a reputable firm.
“We want to have a comprehensive report that could stand the test of time, from the day the commission was created in April 2003 till date, so that we can put it in [a] public space and any person who has issues with that can challenge it.”
In spite of his BBC defence, his case was compounded by the report of President Buhari’s Transition Committee headed by Ahmed Joda which indirectly indicted him.
Ahmed Joda said, “We saw corruption everywhere” despite the huge amount that was spent on the anti-corruption agency to detect, prosecute corrupt officials, recover funds looted by corrupt officials and also prevent funds from being looted by corrupt or potentially corrupt officials.
A fresh dimension was added to the hunting of the former anti-graft hunter last weekend when Lamorde was sighted for the first time in several months in Jos at the inauguration of Course 38 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru, near Jos. He is one of the 68 participants of the course. The wanted former EFCC chairman was reported to be the focus of attendees at the event.
His sudden appearance at NIPSS is a challenge to the Inspector-General of Police, the Department of State Security. DSS; the current leadership of the EFCC, and indeed to the Buhari-led administration as Nigerians are keenly watching to see if the relevant government agencies would effect his arrest. This could be an acid test for the government to disprove allegations that some Nigerians are sacred cows in the war against corruption.
Anti-graft agencies have been very swift in arresting members of the opposition PDP and other perceived opponents of the APC government and this was what led to the allegation of selective probe of alleged corrupt persons. All eyes are now on the relevant security agencies to see what they will do with the Senate’s arrest warrant now that Lamorde’s location is public knowledge.