Moves on to amend EFCC Act to make all Nigerians of impeccable character eligible for chairmanship
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Details have emerged on how suspicious payments were made by Josmon Technologies, a firm that was awarded contract by the Presidential Intiative on North East (PINE), into the bank account of Rholavision, a company linked to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir David Lawal.
The Senate had last week asked Lawal to resign immediately to face prosecution for alleged abuse of office, contract inflation and misappropriation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) funds following the consideration of the interim report of the Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the Northeast. Lawal had however faulted the call for his resignation by the Senate describing it as an attempt to rubbish him.
Documents obtained by THISDAY at the weekend from National Assembly sources who are currently investigating the SGF showed that the Presidential Initiative on North East awarded a contract for the removal of invasive plant species along river channels and 115 hectares of simplified irrigation operation in Yobe State to Josmon Technologies at the cost of N272,524,356.02 million on March 8, 2016.
However, after Josmon Technologies was paid, it began to make payments into Rholavision’s account number 0182001809 in Eco Bank.
Payment of the money into Rholavision account started on March 29, 2016, when Josmon Technologies paid N50 million into the account in five instalments of N10 million.
The payment continued the following day, March 30, when it paid another N50 million in five instalments of N10 million each. On March 31, it paid N20 million in two instalments of N10 million each.
Josmon Technologies returned to the bank on April 1, 2016, when it paid another N50 million in five instalments of N10 million. The payment continued on April 4, when it paid N25 million in three instalments of N10 million each twice and another N5 million.
On September 8, 2016, it paid N10 million and on September 9, it paid another N10 million and later on the same day, it paid in N55 million.
THISDAY also sighted a letter dated September 9, 2016, written by Lawal and addressed to Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) where Lawal stated that “having resigned my appointment as Director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd, I hereby relinquish my shares totalling 1,500,000 ordinary shares to the company.”
However, the letter of resignation to confirm whether the SGF actually resigned in August 2015 as he claimed as against Senate’s claim that he resigned in September 2016 was nowhere to be found.
Another document seen by THISDAY showed a resolution of Rholavision on October 5, 2016, where a Director of Rholavision, Jonathan Dodo, was removed and replaced by Hamidu David Lawal. Another director, Patience Mudala Ephraim, was appointed same day.
Efforts to get the reaction of the SGF were unsuccessful last night.
Meanwhile, following Senate’s rejection of the request for confirmation of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), some close aides of President Muhammadu Buhari are now pushing for the return of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as EFCC boss, THISDAY has learnt.
These officials and associates of the President are said to hold the belief that it was high time the EFCC was returned to the era when it possessed sound intellectual, investigative and prosecutorial capacity to fight corruption and establish connections with similar agencies across the world.
These suggestions were coming against the backdrop of insinuations that the agency had derailed from its roadmap since the exit of Ribadu.
Advocates of the idea are also suggesting the need to court the National Assembly by persuading it to revisit the Act setting up the commission and adopt some of the initial proposals by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo while conceiving the EFCC.
Such proposals included the appointment of a chairman who must not be less than the rank of an Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG). The criteria was however said to have been lowered when the Act was passed to accommodate Ribadu, who was then an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP). Ribadu served a the commission’s pioneer chairman and retired as AIG.
An informed source in the National Assembly also told THISDAY that there were moves to evolve proposals for amendment of some provisions of the EFCC Act to pave the way for the emergence of a chairman outside the Nigeria Police Force or security agencies with a view to making any Nigerian of impeccable character and integrity eligible.
The EFCC Act provides that the commission’s chairman shall be a serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent , and with not less than 15 years cognate experience.
It was learnt that some top Presidency officials are also urging the President to look beyond the Nigeria Police and security agencies in his search for a chairman with impeccable character and incorruptible tendencies.
Their proposals are hinged on the fact that EFCC as currently constituted operates mainly with the mindset of the Nigeria Police, carrying out mere mechanical operations with brute force without recourse to forensic and intellectual engagements.
In pushing their idea, they were said to have suggested that the President could pick a new EFCC chairman from places such as the intelligence community, legal profession, military or other bodies, provided the person being considered has unblemished record and is resolute in his or her commitment to fight corruption without fear or favour.
“We need a seasoned head who can take that agency to the level of Anti-money Trafficking Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and its equivalent in the United Kingdom. The agency needs international connections and it must operate at a higher pedestal… It doesn’t have to be a policeman all the time,” a presidency source said.