- Senate may declare him wanted
Immediate past Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, who failed to appear before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, on Tuesday to answer questions on alleged fraud of about N2.05 trillion, has escaped the country. Lamorde, according to reliable sources, left Nigeria in the wee hours of Friday last week through the Cotonou, Benin Republic border disguised. He was said to have later traveled from there to the United Kingdom where he was sighted on Monday evening.
It could not be established before press time why he decided to leave the country unceremoniously and surreptitiously through the land borders with the neighbouring country, but close sources said he did that to avoid arrest by security agents who it was gathered had laid siege around his Abuja residence to pick him up for questioning on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari over allegations of official corruption and self-enrichment.
His alleged escape contradicts the statement by his lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo to the Senate on Tuesday where in Keyamo told the Senate that his client was sick and traveled out of the country for medical treatment.
Those who saw Lamorde less than 24 hours before he left the shores of Nigeria said he was fit as fiddle. It was also alleged that shortly after his removal on Monday November 9, Lamorde went to his office late in the night and cleared all important documents and evidences that could be used against him, before the ceremonial handing over to his successor Mr. Ibrahim Magu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police.
Said an informed security source last night: “If indeed Lamorde was sick, how come the sickness became so serious within the very short period he was removed from office? Before going abroad for medical treatment, a patient would have been attended to by a Nigerian physician who will later refer the patient abroad for further medical attention if need be. Going by what Keyamo said, which hospital was Lamorde initially admitted and which Nigerian doctor referred him abroad? And why didn’t Keyamo submit medical report of his client to the Senate to buttress his argument? It is unfortunate that someone like Lamorde who was arresting and harassing Nigerians on every flimsy excuse would now run away from the same justice and people want us to believe them?”, stated our source, a senior EFCC official.
At the resumed hearing by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on Tuesday, on the allegations of corruption against Lamorde, he did not appear but was represented by his lawyer, Festus Keyamo.
Lamorde’s absence drew the ire of the committee chaired Senator Samuel Anyanwu (PDP-Imo East), as the former anti-graft chief had earlier failed to honour the committee’s previous summon to attend its inaugural hearing on August 26.
Lamorde’s probe followed a petition by the Chief Executive of Public Alert Security Systems, George Uboh, who accused Lamorde of diverting about N1 trillion recovered assets by the EFCC in his capacity as the Director of Operations and later Chairman, EFCC.
Spokesperson of EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, had dismissed the allegation, questioning the motive of the Senate probe as it began in the wake of the EFCC’s investigation of Toyin Saraki, wife of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, over allegations of graft while her husband governed Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the committee refused to allow Mr. Lamorde’s lawyer make a presentation.
“We don’t accept representative,” Senator Anyanwu insisted, adding, “a person (summoned) may come with his lawyers for guide; but the person must come.”
But defending Lamorde’s absence, Keyamo reminded the committee that his client was first invited as EFCC Chairman. He pointed out that Lamorde’s absence was not out of disrespect for the Committee.
“He was first invited as the EFCC Chairman but now circumstance has changed. So he thought it was the end of his invitation. So he travelled out for medicals. He believed he no longer could be invited as a private citizen.” Keyamo questioned if the Senate could still invite Lamorde and have jurisdiction over him. “The Senate has no power to invite a private person,” he said adding that “ Lamorde has medicals till December 15.”
Reacting to his continued absence, the Senate has vowed to declare Lamorde wanted and issue warrant of his arrest for flagrant disrespect of the Senate if he fails to appear before the Committee at its next sitting on Tuesday Novermber 24.
Apart from the Senate probe, the Federal Government has equally directed the EFCC to investigate Ibrahim Lamorde and how he illegally diverted about N2.05 trillion, being proceeds of corruption that was recovered by the agency.
The government, through the Federal Ministry of Justice, directed the commission to open investigation into the petition dated September 18, 2015, which was forwarded to the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Abdullahi Yola, by the Chief Executive Officer of Panic Alert Security Systems, George Uboh. The commission was ordered to forward the outcome of its investigation to the Federal Ministry of Justice for consideration and possible follow-up action.
President Muhammadu Buhari fired Lamorde, a senior police officer as EFCC Chairman on Monday November 9, four years after he took over as chairman of the agency and replaced him with Ibrahim Magu.
He worked earlier as the director of operations before he was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan on November 23, 2011, after former chairperson, Farida Waziri, was removed.