•Commission recovers N244m, $955,465, €10,000 in S’East
By Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday in Enugu said it is currently investigating Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State and former Governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime, in connection with the $2.1 billion arms funds allegedly diverted to fund the 2015 presidential campaign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Addressing news conference at the commission’s South East Zonal office in Enugu, the EFCC zonal Head, Johnson Babalola, said they were closing in on some politically exposed persons in cases involving other former governors and companies linked to serving governors, disclosing that the cases were under investigation and are presently at various stages.
Apart from the Ebonyi State governor who enjoys immunity, other persons fingered in the fund issue, according to EFCC, would be arraigned in court once investigation is concluded.
He also disclosed that within the past 10 months, the commission in the zone had recovered huge sums of monies in the course of their investigation; a breakdown which showed that a total of N244.6 million, $955, 465, €10, 000 and 3,558 Yuan was recovered.
The zone also concluded that some of the cases where monies were recovered and prosecuted out of which the sum of $130, 750 was forfeited and paid into the coffers of the federal government.
On the campaign funds, Babalola disclosed that the commission was specifically investigating the N450 million allegedly sent to the various states in the zone, explaining that for Ebonyi State, the said money was traced to an account belonging to Umahi, while in the case of Enugu State, the former governor, Chime, as well as other party chieftains, including former PDP state chairman, Chief Ikeje Asogwa; former Economic Adviser to the President, Prof Osita Ogbu; former state Commissioner for Culture, Joe Mammel, and the Chairman of the 2015 presidential campaign in the state, Charles Egumbe, have become suspects.
It was discovered that the duo of Mammel and Ogbu had signed for the money at the Fidelity bank branch along Rangers Avenue in Enuguwhen it was sent to the state by Senator Nenadi Usman who was then in charge of the Finance Department of the PDP campaigns based on her (Usman) discussion with the former governor.
After accessing the said money, it was reportedly taken to the Government House in Enugu and kept in the custody of Chime’s orderly, one Tony Embongus, before it was allegedly disbursed by the governor based on a purported list that was sent from the party’s national headquarters.
It was also gathered that there were disagreements in the statements written by Chime and other officials at the EFCC.
While the former governor reportedly claimed that he had no knowledge of those who were asked to receive the said money at the Enugu bank on arrival, he later asked that the money be taken to the Government House for ‘safe-keeping’ at the instance of Egumgbe and the Campaign Secretary, Rita Mbah, as the later denied the claim in their written statements, a development which has made the Enugu case more complicated.
The other party officials also denied the claim by the former governor that access to the money was only granted to the campaign secretary in their respective statements.
Babalola noted that “this is EFCC; nobody is above the law. We will detail in you and heavens will not fall. So long as you don’t have immunity,” noting that some PDP chieftains in Enugu named in the fund scandal were detained by the commission. He also that N450 million campaign said fund is under investigation in Abia State, noting further that the commission had not received any petition against former state Governor, Theordore Orji.
He dismissed insinuations that the various investigations were unduly being delayed by the commission, stating that criminal cases were not time-bound. “We can’t rush to court for the purpose of arraignment and end up being ridiculed by defence counsel. We will take our time, and I can assure you that the matters will be charged to court at the appropriate time.”
The EFCC zonal head further disclosed that the commission in the zone received a total of 522 cases currently under investigation, explaining that 36 of the cases have been concluded and charged to various courts in the zone for prosecution, while a total of 14 convictions were secured.
Also, the commission has commenced investigations in some cases that are of public interest in which billions of naira is involved as two owners of flourishing ‘wonder banks’ were arrested and kept in detention in connection with alleged fraud running into N13 billion.
EFCC alleged that one Chief Patrick Nwokike, the owner of ‘Lets Partner With You’, was arrested in connection with the collection of over N4 billion from unsuspecting members of the public using the name and style of his company in return for certain monthly percentage on the invested sum.
He further disclosed that the commission has arrested one Joshua Morah, the CEO of Borec Services in another allegation involving over N9 billion with over 30 petitions.