Says Rivers is headquarters of money laundering after Lagos
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday expressed its determination to prosecute Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike as well as his predecessors, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi and Dr. Peter Odili, notwithstanding the perpetual court injunction restraining it from doing so.
EFCC acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, told reporters in Port Harcourt that the restraining order would not stand.
He also listed the state as second only to Lagos in money laundering.
Magu spoke against the backdrop of a petition aimed at stopping the ambition of Odili who was clearly the frontrunner in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primaries in December 2006, on the premises of which the then EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, arrested the then commissioner for finance and other top officials.
The petitioner had alleged that Odili as governor misappropriated N100 billion belonging to the state.
This led the state government to institute a suit against the anti-graft agency to challenge its powers to investigate the state, saying that only the state House of Assembly is constitutionally vested with such powers.
The state government also challenged the EFCC powers and got subsisting judgments of the High Court of Rivers State and the Federal High Court barring the EFCC from investigating the finances of the state.
Justice Peter Agumagu of the Rivers State High Court on February 16, 2007, said by the combined effects of section 125 subsections (2), (5) and (6) of the 1999 Constitution, it was the Rivers State House of Assembly that had the final say on matters pertaining to the funds of the state as laid before it by the Auditor-General’s audit report of all public accounts and the Accountant-General’s financial statements and published annual accounts.
When the EFCC rejected the judgment because it was delivered by a state high court, the case was again filed at the Federal High Court where Justice Ibrahim Buba in line with the tenor of the judgment of the state High Court after upholding the judgment, made specific injunctive orders in its judgment delivered on March 20, 2007, restraining the EFCC from arresting Odili.
On the judgment restraining the commission from investigating and prosecuting Rivers governors on financial crimes, Magu said: “Nothing is going to stop us; even the issue of the court order allegedly obtained by Dr. Peter Odili and co to stop the EFCC from investigation and prosecution has been overtaken by events even though the matter is still at the Supreme Court.
“I am telling you that that judgment cannot stand; it will only take some time. It cannot hold and we are going to conclude the investigation. There are so many investigations we are doing; we will take it before the court; let the court refuse to prosecute their case. I am sure the matter has suffered for about 13 years now. We are going to test it. The matter is in the Supreme Court. We will follow it up.”
He stated that the court judgment restraining the commission from prosecuting the state governors had been overtaken by events and other declarations, adding that nothing would stop the commission again.
“That decision that is pending in the Supreme Court does not actually hold water again. There are subsequent judgments that have discarded it. Clearly, there are other judgments that came up and said nobody, not even the judge, not even the judiciary, not even the court can stop us from investigating and prosecuting,” he added.
Magu also identified Rivers State as the second capital of money laundering in Nigeria, after Lagos.
The EFCC boss, who said the commission would leave nothing unturned to track and expose crimes in the country, noted that the reason for the rate of money laundering crime in Rivers State was because of the nature of its oil business terrain.
He said: “I think Rivers State is next to Lagos in terms of crime. This is the headquarters of money laundering because there is a lot of oil money here. I think you can rate Port Harcourt the second to maybe Lagos when you talk of people playing with sinking, diving, hiding, maybe because of the large space of oil deals.”
On the achievements of the commission last year, Magu said the EFCC had “gotten about three conviction of governors who are presently cooling off in the prison” while 1,245 convictions were recorded last year.
He called for the cooperation of all Nigerians in the fight