IN what seems like a renewed onslaught against some former governors for alleged misappropriation of public funds while in office, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) last week arrested three ex-governors and declared the fourth wanted.
The ex-chief executives who perhaps, for the first time spent the weekend in custody of the anti-graft agency include, Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State, his counterpart Alao Akala of Oyo and Akwe Doma of Nasarawa.
Daniel is being investigated for allegedly embezzling N58 billion, Akala, N25 billion while Doma is to explain to the commission how N18billion disappeared from the state treasury.
The agency has also declared Senator, Danjuma Goje, former governor of Gombe State wanted for allegedly misappropriating N52 billion.
Goje who is currently in the senate, a source said he refused to honour the invitation and instead went into hiding. ‘Our belief is that the former governor as a member of the highest law-making organ in the country will not want to embarrass himself by his continued refusal to appear before the commission. Of course, we are not unaware of the insinuations that he might have travelled out of the country, but I can assure you that we have details of his movements’, the source stated.
The source expressed confidence that the agency was only giving him the benefit of the doubt to surrender himself failure of which the com- mission would embarrass him.
According to reports, all airports, seaports and national borders have been put on alert to apprehend Goje and to stop him from leaving the country. However, it was learnt that Goje and his family left their Abuja residence for an unknown destination last week beating the EFCC agents to the game.
‘As a senator, we had expected him to honour the letter of invitation sent to him. ‘But we are surprised that up till now the former governor has not thought it wise to make himself available for a chat so that he could clear his name of all the corrupt allegations. As far as we are concerned, the invitation is an opportunity for him to say his own side of the story because we would not want to go outside the ambit of the law in the discharge of our responsibilities’, a source said.
The EFCC source expressed disappointment at the hide-and-seek game the former governor is playing in this matter, noting that he could not decide when to honour the invitation. ‘But we will give him a long rope to hang himself’, the source added.
Political watchers express worry that a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would refuse to honour an invitation from the anti-graft agency. He may not be alone in this hiding game.
It would be recalled that Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, former Senator and committee chairman in charge of health once absconded forcing the EFCC to declare her wanted. When she eventually surfaced, the senate promptly absolved her of any involvement in any sleazy financial deal forcing many to wonder what manner of senate?
Mike Ahamba, in a telephone interview said that nobody should be given preferential treatment and that all the accused should go to court and defend themselves.
‘Nobody is above the law. If you are accused of any offence, the onion is on you to go to court and defend yourself’, he added.
The other former governors the EFCC is probing are Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State, Ibrahim Shinkafi of Zamfara State and Modu Sheriff of Borno State.
Although many Nigerians seem to have lost faith in the capability of EFCC to effectively and efficiently fight corruption given what it described as the overriding influence of Muhammed Adoke, the Attorney- General and Minister of Justice which it claimed often frustrated its investigations.
But the recent arrest may have opened up a new vista for an improvement in the fight. To prove this, it was gathered that the AGF had earlier given the go-ahead to the EFCC to try the former governors for various offences they allegedly committed while in office.
It was furthered gathered that the minister gave the EFCC the permission to try Daniel and three others, having certified that the commission had gathered sufficient evidence to sustain their trial in court, a premise upon which he had misunderstanding with the EFCC in the past.
An impeccable source from the EFCC told The Moment that with the fiat from the minister’s office, the EFCC then effected arrest of the former governors to face charges of financial impropriety in court.
He added that since the anti-graft agency has concluded its investigations into the allegations against the four former governors and has got the AGF’s permission, in line with the new operational guidelines for the EFCC, there was no need delaying any further.
Explaining why it took long for the commission to make a move against the former governors, one of the sources stated that the new modus operandi of the EFCC has changed as it is now required to gather enough evidence to sustain a trial before arresting a suspect, especially, a politically exposed suspect such as top political office holders, including those who have left office.
He said this is because the anti-graft agency would not want to be seen as either persecuting a suspect or perceived as being used for political reasons, hence the idea is to first conclude investigation into allega- tions against suspects before arrest- ing them.
‘EFCC does not want to continue with the culture of indicting anyone without enough proof and granting bail every now and then. But now, the offences in question would have been fully investigated and once the facts are clear, the suspects are picked up immediately and from the cell, straight to the courtrooms. No shoddy job. Clean, meticulous and neat,’ the source said.
It was learnt that some of the former governors, aware of plans to arrest them, have started lobbying top government officials to prevent their arrest and subsequent trial.
One of the former governors yet to be picked up was said to have been sighted in Abuja, the nation’s capital, apparently lobbying people who could save him from the pending arrest and subsequent prosecution.
Femi Babafemi, EFCC spokesman however, declined to comment on when the commission will arrest the others who are being investigated, stating that since investigations are still going on, it would be premature to make any comment that could compromise the probe of the suspects.
EFCC had intensified investigations into financial activities of some states ahead of the expiration of tenure of office of the former governors and the inauguration of new ones.
To ensure a thorough job, the com- mission had then sent its operatives to some states to gather sufficient evidence against some governors and their officials before power changed hands.
Farida Waziri, the EFCC chairman dispatched the teams to various states where the anti-graft commission had been investigating allegations of fraud against the governors and other public officials.
The teams, in addition to their briefs, were also given deadlines to complete their assignments ahead of the May 29 handover date when some of the governors, as it is com- mon knowledge, would have lost their immunity.
The report of the investigation was then given to the AGF for his study and approval, which culminated in the arrest of the three.
Meanwhile, Festus Adedayo, the Special Adviser to the Oyo State governor on media noted that ‘Though the arrest is a vindication of our earlier allegation of the predatory clean-up of the state’s patrimony for four years by the Alao-Akala government, the present government does not want to gloat over the fate of the former governor. We only enjoin both the EFCC and the judiciary to allow justice to be done.
While the EFCC could not arrest the former governors when they were in office was because of the immunity clause, their aides were interrogated by the agency and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission.