By Eniola Akinkuotu and Ramon Oladimeji
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is still under investigation for his alleged role in the disbursement of N23bn campaign funds, which emanated from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The N23bn was alleged to have been part of stolen crude oil funds and kickbacks from contractors.
Part of the money was allegedly used in bribing officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission during the 2015 general elections.
Ize-Iyamu had told journalists that as the campaign director for the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation in Edo State during the 2015 presidential election, he handled N700m for the party.
He was quizzed by the EFCC in May 2016, when he was asked to return some money to the commission but was not detained, thereby fuelling speculations that he had been cleared by the anti-graft agency.
The EFCC spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, however, told our correspondent on Monday that the PDP candidate was still under investigation.
“I can confirm to you that he (Ize-Iyamu) is still under investigation,” Wilson said.
Ize-Iyamu had told reporters that he indeed handled N700m for the PDP during the last presidential election but added that the party still owed him some money.
He had said, “I told them (EFCC) who got what: that we needed money for transportation; mobilisation of our people; some of them that had to leave Benin to their polling units in the rural areas, and that the state chairman of the party worked out a realistic budget.
“And that by the time we looked at what they brought and what we had in mind, it became clear that the N700m would not be enough. Our leader volunteered to make up the difference, which he brought from his house.”
The EFCC has grilled about 16 former governors and ministers over the alleged N23bn Diezani scam.
Some of them included the immediate past Governor of Kebbi State, Saidu Dakin Garin; former Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State; former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State; former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff of Borno State; former Governor James Ngilari of Adamawa State; a former Governor of Zamfara State, Mamuda Shinkafi; a former Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke; and a former Minister of State for Finance, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda.
During the election, each state was said to have received at least N450m from the fund, which was handled by ministers or governors who were members of the PDP.
Some states, however, received more than N450m.
Meanwhile, the EFCC on Monday arraigned one Jules Suinner before a Federal High Court in Lagos for alleged cybercrime and fraudulent impersonation.
Also arraigned separately on the same alleged offences before the same court were one Idorenyin Okon, Usen Akpan and Ukpai Onyike.
Suinner, who was arraigned on three counts, was accused of conspiring with one ICT AID Foundation Cooperative Society and others still at large to withdraw N20m from an Access Bank account belonging to one Greenview Development Nigeria Limited.
The accused persons were said to have allegedly accessed the account by fraudulently impersonating officials of Greenview Development Nigeria Limited.
Suinner was said to have allegedly forged a funds transfer mandate of Greenview Development Nigeria Limited, dated July 13, 2015, to perpetrate the alleged fraud.
The EFCC prosecutor, E. Iheanacho, told the court that Suinner acted contrary to sections 22(2)(b) and 27(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015.
Suinner, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Okon, Akpan and Onyike were accused of conspiring with one Timothy Akpan, still at large, to obtain Union Bank Automated Teller Machine cards in the names of one Esto Funmi Emmanuel and Emmanuel Okonkwo Ede to gain access to the victims’ bank accounts.
The accused persons were said to have allegedly perpetrated the frauds between February and April, 2016 in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Iheanacho told the court that Okon, Akpan and Onyike also violated sections 22(2)(b) and 27(1)(b) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015.
But the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the four counts pressed against them.
In view of the plea of not guilty by the accused, the prosecutor urged the court to make an order remanding them in prison custody while he also sought a date for the commencement of trial.
The trial judge, Justice Babs Kuewumi, ordered that the four accused persons should be remanded in the prison while he adjourned till September 14, 2016 for the commencement of trial.