Having exhausted the much-debated immunity provision in the Nigerian constitution, some ex-governors may be heading to the days of reckoning when they have to pay for their misdeeds if the anti-graft agency remains focused on achieving a conclusive prosecution. With the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) trailing some past governors and grilling them for hours, many of them will never want their paths to cross with that of the commission. Some of the former state executives having cases to answer before the commission are:
If former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, had been informed that operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would knock at his door at about 8am in his Asokoro residence on Thursday, June 18, to arrest him, he may probably have changed his direction and hurried out of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). But that was not to be and his immunity as governor haven long been exhausted, EFCC officials stormed his residence in one of the choice areas in the FCT; an area which is regarded as an exclusive enclave for the rich and the powerful.
Ohakim was arrested over a number of properties he allegedly acquired which the anti-graft agency had traced to his name. Also, the cases brought against him include alleged misappropriation of N18bn bond loans obtained on behalf of Imo State government. This is just as he is being investigated for alleged cash withdrawals of about N1bn from the state account a day before he left office as governor. The ex-governor had earlier been invited by the commission but he failed to honour the invitation. His failure then sparked off the arrest.
The former governor may not be at the best of his times now as he has come under close watch of the EFCC. He has been arrested, interrogated and later released but he does not know what may be his fate at the end of the day, a reason why he may even be more apprehensive.
Similarly, the immediate past governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, has also come under the watch and grip of the EFCC. Lamido was invited for questioning by the anti-graft agency penultimate Thursday. Like a gentleman, he cooperated and honoured the invitation but that did not pacify the EFCC nor end the case against him; it is only a smooth beginning in digging deep into the charges made against him.
Lamido is being accused of huge financial fraud running into billions of naira. The questions Lamido has to provide answers to border on contracts which his government awarded to companies which are linked to his family members. Also, the ex-governor had been blacklisted since the EFCC arrested his sons last year for alleged stealing of Jigawa State government funds and laundering which they allegedly committed through their company accounts.
Former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, is among the former governors who tangled with the EFCC at the termination of their tenure as state executives. Therefore, he may not be having maximum sleep as each night passes. Sylva has been standing trial over a six-count criminal charge brought against him by the commission ranging from alleged masterminding of illegal diversion of state government funds from the coffers of Bayelsa State during his tenure to other offences. Among the offences are embezzlement of over N6.5 billion from the treasury of the small oil-rich state between October 2009 and February, 2010 – just a period of 4 months.
In a recent trial, Sylva was ordered to submit all his international passports to the registrar of an Abuja high court where the case was being heard. He was also granted bail in the sum of a towering N100m and was further ordered to secure an Abuja resident who must be an owner of landed property worth the bail sum as surety to avert the chances that the ex-governor may ‘jump’ bail. His case with the anti-graft agency was as serious as this.
Apart from this, the former Bayelsa governor also faced another 42-count charge in an Abuja high court, along with six others for allegedly stealing N19.2bn from the treasury of the state. However, in a rather controversial decision, Justice A.R Mohammed of the Abuja Federal High Court recently dismissed the case against the once-embattled former governor.
Just like some of his counterparts, the former Ebonyi State governor, Martin Elechi, is not having it too rosy with the EFCC. Elechi was on Tuesday, June 16, summoned by the commission for interrogation. Accusations against the septuagenarian include alleged theft of millions of naira in the asphalt contract for the state’s 13 local government areas. The contract was said to be shoddily executed and was allegedly awarded to the former governor’s son, Elechi Nnanna Elechi.
For instance, out of 13 local governments in the state, the contract was executed in only six local government areas, leaving seven unattended to. This is notwithstanding that money had been made available for the contract execution.
In addition, Elechi is also facing hard times with EFCC over misappropriation of funds provided to be used for centenary celebration. That’s not all. Elechi was further interrogated over deductions made from stabilization fund account.
Elechi’s son, Nnanna had been arrested by the EFCC earlier in January this year over alleged corrupt and fraudulent dealings. However, under the immunity clause by which he was adequately galvanized as a state governor, the anti-graft body could not lay hands on him but waited for the right time which is now. Whether Elechi would be found guilty, jailed or compelled to return the money in question to the suffering treasury of Ebonyi State is not clear yet. Only time will tell as EFCC continues to sniff around towards conclusion of the case.
It will be recalled that Nyako with his deputy, Bala Ngilari, was impeached by the Adamawa State House of Assembly for gross financial fraud on July 16, 2014 and was later declared wanted by the anti-graft agency alongside his son Abdul Aziz Murtala Nyako, a retired naval officer, in February this year. Both were wanted for alleged criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering.
However, at the commencement of the EFCC’s investigations, Nyako left the country. He returned only nearly a year later and visited the commission to answer some questions. Following his return and subsequent turning in at the commission’s office, the former governor was held and grilled for hours over allegation of money laundering running into N15bn. But Nyako was later released on what the EFCC Spokesperson, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, described as “administrative bail”. Mr. Uwujaren said the former governor, who is 73, was also released based on his age and health situation.
Since when the charges were instituted against Nyako and his son, the former governor has attributed his travail to witch-hunting and selective justice perpetrated by the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan which he has severally accused of witch-hunting him for speaking the truth.
The commission had alleged massive looting of the treasury by top officials of Adamawa State government under Mr. Nyako, a development that, at the time, led to the arrest and questioning of key officials, including then secretary to the state government, the then state commissioner for finance, the then commissioner for higher education, the then accountant general of the state and the then permanent secretary, ministry for local Government.
The searchlight of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is also beaming bright on Kastina State. In a move to ensure that former Katsina State governor, Ibrahim Shema, gives account of how he spent the state’s resources while in power, the EFCC recently invited four top officials of the state government for questioning over some financial transactions.
The Commission invited four officials of the Katsina State government to clarify issues related to financial misappropriations in the last four years of Shema in power between 2011 and 2015, even as the former governor was reported to have travelled out of the country.
The officials who were invited include permanent secretaries of the ministries of works and agriculture; the managing director of the Katsina Road Maintenance Agency (KASAROMA) and the state accountant general.
The EFCC directed the officials to come with various official documents bordering on contracts awarded between 2011 and 2015, annual budgets from 2011 to 2015, actual funds released to the ministries/agencies from 2011 to May 2015, funds released to the ministries of agriculture, works, housing, transportation and sports among others .
The recent arrest of some former governors who just left office last month at the expiration of their tenures by the EFCC is raising some hopes in the fight against corruption. This is more so, considering the fact that the commission had been lying recently on the ground that it was not funded to carry out prosecutions of corrupt public officeholders.
On the other hand, one may wonder if the new impetus gathered and being demonstrated by the commission is part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s vow to fight corruption. One may also wonder if these new cases will be conclusively executed or allowed to go fallow like other cases instituted against some public officeholders without any conclusion or conviction at the end. Such cases are waiting to be exhumed.