The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has finally made the details of the high profile cases being handled by the anti-corruption agency available to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice based on request.
Sources at the commission told our correspondent that the list sent to the AGF’s office a fortnight ago, comprised 103 high-profile cases.
Those on the list, it was learnt, include top-ranking judicial officers, including a justice of the Supreme Court, a judge of the Federal High Court, and a sacked justice of the Court of Appeal.
The judges named in the list are said to be different from those arrested by the State Security Services in October last year.
None of the judicial officers currently being prosecuted across the country is on the list.
Also on the list are some former governors, one of whom is currently serving as a minister the President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, and others serving their terms in the Senate.
Other politically-exposed persons named in the list are some former ministers, senators and some persons being investigated for the $2.1bn arms purchase scam.
Although, the sources refused to reveal the identities of the high-profile suspects on the list because of “possible negative implications such revelation could have on ongoing investigations”, they informed our reporter that the cases were at various stages.
Investigations were said to have been completed in majority of the cases while investigation was stalled in some of them due to “disappearance” of the suspects from Nigeria.
“Some of the cases are still at intelligence-gathering stage, while some are at investigation stage.
“There are some that are the stage of charges being drafted while some are already ongoing in court but foot-dragging,” a source at the EFCC told our reporter.
TheNigerialawyer had exclusively reported in July 2016, that the AGF had written separate letters to the EFCC and the ICPC requesting the case-files of 31 former governors being investigated or prosecuted by the anti-corruption agencies.
On the list then, were the names of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki (who is a former Governor of Kwara State); a former Governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff; and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio (who is a former governor of Akwa Ibom State).
The list also contained the names of ex-governors Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia); Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu); Saminu Turaki (Jigawa); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); and Joshua Dariye (Plateau).
Others are, former governors Ahmed Yerima (Zamfara); Gabriel Suswam (Benue); James Ibori (Delta); Martin Elechi (Ebonyi); Danjuma Goje (Gombe) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Ikedi Ohakim (Imo) and Peter Odili (Rivers).
It was learnt that the request by the AGF’s office was recently updated with the inclusion of the names of other politically-exposed persons such as the Senator representing Anambra North, Stella Oduah.
Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions and Chairman of the newly-constituted Recovery of Public Property Panel, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, confirmed that the AGF’s office had received the list from the EFCC but refused to give details.
Obono-Obla, who works under the AGF, said the ICPC would send its list to the AGF when the new chairman of the commission is inaugurated.
Obono-Obla, had in an interview with The PUNCH in July this year, said the EFCC and the ICPC were not cooperating with the AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).
He noted that many of the cases against some former governors being handled by the EFCC and the ICPC had been stalled at investigation stage for over 10 years.
He said both the EFCC and the ICPC defied the AGF’s request for the duplicate case-files of the high-profile cases being handled by the agencies.
He said, “Although, the Attorney-General of the Federation has the power under both the constitution and the administration of the Criminal Justice Act 2015 to make a request of any case file that is pending either with the police, the ICPC, EFCC or any of the prosecuting agencies, we met a brick wall when we requested the case- files of the high-profile cases and former governors from the EFCC and the ICPC.
“They are not cooperating with us and we cannot use a whip to start beating them, but I expect that the rules of public service require that if letters are written by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, those letters should be honoured. They don’t want to work with the office of the AGF.”
In an interview with our reporter on Thursday, Obono-Obla confirmed that the EFCC had now yielded to the AGF’s request.
“They are cooperating. They have sent the details of the cases we requested to us,” the presidential aide said.
When asked whether the AGF will by its action take over the prosecution of the cases from the EFCC, Obono-Obla said the AGF’s request was in line with constitutional and statutory provisions conferring on the AGF the supervisory authorities over the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies.
He said, “The essence of getting the file was not to take up the prosecution. The essence is in line with the law that says the Attorney-General of the Federation is the chief prosecutor of the country.
“All those agencies are under the Office of Attorney-General of the Federation. So, we have to know what they are doing.
“We have to see what they are doing, so that if they are not doing the right thing we will advise them accordingly. The office of the AGF is as old as this country; the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation is as old as the country.
“These are some of the oldest institutions in this country. They have a lot of experiences.”
When asked to give the details of the list received from the EFCC, he said, “I don’t want to go into the details for now. At the appropriate time, we will let you know what we have seen and what we are going to do.”
He insisted that there was no face-off between the AGF and the EFCC, describing the alleged bickering between the two agencies as “a misconception.”
He said, “There can’t be any question about the powers of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“So, there can’t be any conflict between the AGF and the EFCC, which is an agency under the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“It is the law, it is clear. If you look at section 43 of the EFCC Act, it says the Attorney-General of the Federation has the powers to make the rules and regulations for the EFCC.
“There is no doubt that the EFCC is under the AGF. So there cannot be a conflict between the master and the servant, let me put it that way.”
When reminded of his earlier claim that both the EFCC and the ICPC were not cooperating with the AGF, Obono-Obla said, “Yes, I said so initially, but they are cooperating now because they now know that the law is very clear and that there is what we call EFCC enforcement regulation which was made by the office of the AGF pursuant to section 43 of the EFCC Act.
“Also in the constitutional provision, section 150(1) of the constitution, section 174(1) of the constitution, sections 105 to 106 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, it is very clear that the AGF is the chief prosecutor of the federation and the EFCC is under him.”
He said there was no pressure from higher authorities before the EFCC submitted the details requested to the AGF’s office.
According to him, the EFCC only realised that they had to obey the AGF as stipulated by law.
The presidential aide said, “The law is clear. I don’t think there had to be any superior intervention. I have mentioned the constitution, the administration of Criminal Justice Act and the EFCC Act.
“The laws are very clear that they have to comply with the request of the AGF. The AGF can request files from any law enforcement agency in Nigeria and the law enforcement agency is obliged to comply.”
Denying any face-off between the AGF and the EFCC, he said it probably took the anti-corruption agency so long to respond to the AGF’s request because of the number of cases spanning over a decade that had to be compiled by the agency.
He said, “Well, they have not refused (to comply), we have the details from them now. Maybe they were taking their time. As I told you before, most of these cases are old cases from 2003 to 2004.
“So, if you make a request, it will take them time to put all the cases together. But as I told you, there cannot be any question of, they not obeying us. They cannot afford not to obey the Attorney-General of the Federation.”
Attempts to speak with the Spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, proved abortive as his telephone lines were switched off while the Acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, did not respond to calls made by our correspondent.