Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday denied reports that N900 million notes recovered from bank officials facing trial at an Ibadan High Court was pilfered by its operatives.
The commission said contrary to reports bank officials were responsible for tampering with the 106 boxes containing the mutilated currencies. The anti-graft agency said the pilfering of the boxes was one of the reasons why the bankers are in court.
A statement issued by EFCC said the court only ordered the commission to produce the boxes as evidence and not on the the basis that the commission tampered with it as reported.
The statement signed by the Spokesman of the Commission, Wilson Ewujaren, said the thrust of the case was on tampering with the mutilated currencies domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria( CBN).
“The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has been drawn to reports by a section of the online media alleging that N900 million (Nine Hundred Million Naira) mutilated Naira notes, recovered from bank officials currently being prosecuted before the Federal High Court, Ibadan had been tampered with by operatives of the Commission.
“The reports which supposedly emanated from the October 4 proceedings of the Federal High Court,Ibadan claimed that the trial Judge, Justice P.I Ajoku made the discovery that operatives of the Commission tampered with the boxes containing the money”, it said. The commission further stated that “it is important to state that this narrative is false and calculated to mislead the public.
“At no time during the proceedings did Justice Ajoku accuse the Commission of tampering with any box. The only order made by the court was for the EFCC to produce the 106 boxes containing the mutilated currencies as evidence.
“How the order to produce the boxes turned into an indictment for tampering with N900million only exist in the warped imagination of the purveyors of the false report”.
The anti-graft agency argued that “the mastermind of the false story betrayed their motives with a strange commentary, calling on the international community to be present at the adjourned sitting of the Federal High Court , Ibadan on 2nd and 3rd of December, 2019 ‘to witness the gross corruption by those employed by the government to curb corruption”.
“The EFCC is not fazed by such rant. Neither is it losing sleep over the order by Justice Ajoku. For the benefit of the public, the boxes in question have never been in the custody of the Commission, let alone officers of the EFCC having the opportunity to pilfer its content”.
The EFCC explained that following a petition in November 2014, alleging the stealing of mutilated notes meant for destruction by employees of the Central Bank of Nigeria and other deposit money banks, operatives of the Commission, in the course of investigation, visited the Ibadan Branch of the CBN and discovered that the boxes had been tampered. It said “the boxes were never removed from the CBN. Indeed if the thrust of the case against the bankers is the pilfering of the content of the boxes then it beggars logic to expect EFCC officers to pilfer what had been pilfered in the vaults of the CBN.
“Members of the public are enjoined to completely disregard the story as false, mischievous and a deliberate ploy to impugn the integrity of the EFCC”.
The statement said the commission had done substantial work prosecuting persons indicted in the scam and would not be distracted by false narratives.
It held that upon conclusion of the investigation into the scam, the commission had filed three separate charges against the suspects.
“The arraignment of the defendants in the three different cases initially took place before Justice Ayo Emmanuel of the Federal High Court, Ibadan in 2018. A substantial number of the defendants realising the magnitude of the available evidence against them, wrote to the EFCC and entered into a plea bargain, forfeiting the proceeds of the scam, including shopping plazas”.
The statement further recalled that Justice Ajoku only commenced trial de novo in relation to a few of the remaining defendants following the transfer of the earlier judge from Ibadan.