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Nigeria: EFCC Has Recovered N30bn From Suspended Accountant General, Says Bawa

He said the agency is still on the N7.1bn alleged fraud case against Senator Kalu.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday shed some light on the fraud allegations against the suspended Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, saying the agency had so far recovered N30 billion from the top civil servant who is undergoing trial over a N109 billion fraud case.

The EFCC Boss, who featured in a ministerial press briefing at the State House, Abuja, allayed fears that the EFCC could be a tool in the hands of some influential individuals,

According to Bawa,  the anti-graft agency is independent enough to investigate the suspended Attorney-General, Ahmed Idris, over the alleged money laundering case. 

An investigation, he said, has led to the recovery of over N30 billion. 

He said: “The EFCC is independent; nobody tells us what to do or investigate, how to investigate, or what to cover and what not to cover. No! 

“One of the last major investigations we did was that we arrested the Accountant-General of the Federation. The Accountant-General of the Federation was arrested. Out of those fraudulent activities discovered, the EFCC has recovered over N30bn, and we’re already prosecuting them”.

Bawa also disclosed that EFCC has not closed the N7.1 billion fraud case against former governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.

Kalu had approached a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for an order to bar the EFCC from retrying him, arguing that a Supreme Court decision which ordered a retrial of the fraud case did not include him as a party in the retrial.

The court granted Kalu’s plea, ordering the anti-graft agency to exclude him from the retrial of a case for which he had been tried and convicted.

Responding to a question on the issue during the briefing, Bawa said the former governor has not been discharged, nor acquitted, adding that the EFCC was still pursuing the matter against him.

His words: “My friend here asked about Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. The prosecution lasted for 12 years or so and he was convicted by the court. He went to the Supreme Court and the court said yes because he was elevated to the Court of Appeal, it cannot come back to the lower court and that he should be retried in Lagos. 

“So we wanted to arraign him almost immediately in Lagos for the prosecution to start all over again and then he went to court, challenging that he has been discharged and acquitted and nobody discharged and acquitted him and we are still pursuing the matters in court here in Abuja. So the matter is still ongoing”.

On whether there are politicians under EFCC’s radar, who are being monitored for wrongdoings, Bawa said “of course, certainly, there are a lot of them that we’re watching and a lot of Nigerians have also provided us with information here and there. We are watching and we want you to join them too and give us that piece of information, if you have any. 

According to him, the Commission has been receiving petitions on many of the politicians contesting various political offices, but explained that operatives are taking thorough efforts to sieve through the petitions to ascertain those that are true and really deserving investigative efforts.

“A lot of petitions left, right and centre, against almost every politician that is contesting for office, but what are we going to do at this hour? Do you want us now to invite one presidential candidate to come and make a statement? The same media is going to say it’s politically motivated. 

“We’re working behind the scenes on all the petitions that we’ve received that have merit and I’m not politically motivated and that’s why in every command we have what is called Petition Vetting Committee, made up of officers from the Legal Department as well as officials that review these petitions, to see whether they are in line with our own mandate, before they now recommend whether they can be investigated by the EFCC.

“We even have a manual on that, on the criteria that you need to follow, that guide them in terms of coming to accepting or rejecting a petition”, he revealed.

Commenting on  welfare of EFCC staff, the  Chairman said President Buhari had since approved a robust severance package for Staff of the Commission, as a way of enhancing their efficiency.

His words: “About issues of temptation, we thank God for President Muhammadu Buhari, one of the first things that he did when I came on board was to approve for us a very robust severance package and everybody is happy about it in the EFCC, everybody is looking towards retirement. So, we are secured in that regard.

“And for those that yield to the temptations they face, we are dealing with them one at a time, as soon as we get the information and we investigate. Those we found wanting have been punished, some have been dismissed, some demoted and so on. So for the risks we face, we are very prayerful and God will continue to protect us”.

Speaking on the issue of vote buying, especially as the general elections approach, Bawa said the Commission is doing a lot to combat the menace, disclosing that the EFCC had been discussing with various stakeholders, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), politicians and others while calling  on the general public to join in ending the illicit practice.

“We’re doing quite a lot on this; we are working with INEC, we are working with a lot of people, but ultimately, we want to work with Nigerians. Nigerian should know the implication of them selling their votes or accepting that their votes should be bought by these individuals. 

“Already, because of what is ongoing now, a lot of people are scared about whether or not they can buy votes, whether or not people will be willing to sell their votes. 

“We hope and pray that our modest efforts will be able to curtail this issue of vote buying when it comes to be in February and in March. God willing, we are working towards seeing that we contribute our quota to curtail”, he said.

Bawa also disclosed that the anti-graft Commission has secured 3,615 convictions between January and December this year.

According to him, “in the first full year of the current administration, the EFCC recorded only 195 convictions, that was 2016, in 2017, EFCC recorded 186, we went down; in 2018 we recorded 312 convictions, in 2019, we recorded 1280 convictions, it went up with over 312 percent; in 2022, we had COVID so we went down to 976, last year (2021) which was part of my administration, we recorded an unprecedented 2220 convictions and this year, even though it has not ended, we have so far recorded 3615 convictions, unprecedented.

“The figures showing convictions that the EFCC has secured this year alone, are more than the convictions the Commission has recorded from inception up to 2020. This is so because of the effort we have put in, the support the government is giving us and also the good working relationship that we have with the Judiciary, as well as so many things that we have been doing and the government has been backing us to do so as an institution. That is why you can see the success, this is where we are now and it is going to get better”.

Also, various amounts totalling about N136 billion have been recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and remitted to the coffers of the federal government from May 2022 to date.

Giving details of the recoveries, which covered various proceeds of corrupt practices and denominated in both the local and foreign currencies, Bawa, however, disclosed that the funds are to be committed to the funding of ongoing major infrastructural projects nationwide, including the Abuja-Kano Highway, Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and some others.

He gave the breakdown of funds to include N120 billion, $29 million, €6.6m million and about £1.1 million, all of which aggregated to N136,651,505,114 in  local currency.

“I want to state here that the POCA, which is the Proceeds of Crime Act, 2022, mandates that all relevant agencies must open what is called the Confiscated Assets and Properties Account in naira and foreign currencies and that all finally forfeited funds that belong to the federal government should now go into that account. And before, we had to pay the money into a designated account. 

“But with POCA, this is where we now keep the different government assets recovered. And we have carried out an audit. From our EFCC recovery account, we paid N120bn and $29m, about 6.6m euros, and about 1.1m pounds into that. 

“And the President has sanctioned that all those monies should be utilised to provide critical infrastructure in the country. So the funds will be used for the completion of the Abuja-Kano expressway, the second Niger bridge, and the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, among other funds that the federal government is getting.” 

He further revealed that, in November 2022, the EFCC recovered another N201bn from oil firms defaulting on royalties to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and the 3% statutory payment to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). 

The breakdown includes $354million, N30 billion and $30 million. 

He said: “Here are some of the things we have done in indirect recoveries in November 2022. We recovered $354m for the NUPRC in terms of royalties that one of the oil companies has not paid. Our investigations led to that recovery. 

“For the recoveries that we’re making for NDDC, for instance, between now and probably next week, we’ll transfer to them about N30bn and about $30m. 

“These are recoveries we have made from oil companies that have refused to pay the 3% statutory payment to NDDC”.

Bawa, however, refused to provide the names of the oil companies from where the recoveries were made.

His words: “It is only from one company that the $354m was recovered. I have forgotten the period, but it is an investigation done by our Lagos command, and we have evidence of payment that the said company made. Because of the sensitivity of some of these things, we will leave it at that”.

Deji Elumoye