•The structure belongs to us since NSO days, says security agency
•Anti-graft shocked over siege, says it’s endangered
Deji Elumoye, Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Sunday Ehigiator
President Bola Tinubu, yesterday, directed the Department of State Security Service (DSS) to immediately vacate the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Ikoyi, Lagos.
According to a release from the State House, Abuja, by Tunde Rahman, the president gave the directive when reports that DSS officials had stormed the EFCC office located on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos preventing officials of the anti-graft agency from accessing their work place, was brought to his attention.
President Tinubu said if there were issues between the two important agencies of government, they would be resolved amicably.
Two federal agencies, the DSS and the EFCC clashed yesterday over the ownership of the office complex.
There were reports that the DSS prevented officials of the anti-graft agency from gaining access to their office in Ikoyi, blocking the whole building and placing an armoured tank at the front of the building.
“They even placed an armoured tank just to scare us away,” a source at the office said.
While DSS laid claim to the ownership of the building, EFCC said there were ongoing discussions between the two agencies.
But a statement by DSS said the agency was only occupying its facility.
The statement by the DSS spokesman, Dr Peter Afunanya, said, “Awolowo Road was NSO headquarters. SSS/DSS started from there. It is a common knowledge. It is a historical fact. Check it out. There is no rivalry between the service and the EFCC over and about anything.
“The attention of the Department of State Services (DSS) has been drawn to some media reports that it barricaded the EFCC from entering its Lagos office. It is not correct that the DSS barricaded EFCC from entering its office. No. It is not true. The service is only occupying its own facility, where it is carrying out its official and statutory responsibility.
“By the way, there is no controversy over No 15A Awolowo Road as being insinuated by the media. Did the EFCC tell you it is contesting the ownership of the building? I will be surprised if it is contesting the ownership. Awolowo Road was NSO headquarters. SSS/DSS started from there. It is a common knowledge. It is a historical fact. Check it out.
“There is no rivalry between the service and the EFCC over and about anything. Please do not create any imaginary one. They are great partners working for the good of the nation. Dismiss any falsehood of a fight,” it said.
But the EFCC countered the claim and confirmed that DSS deployed Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), blocking staff of the commission from gaining access to the building.
A statement by the spokesman of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, said by so doing the DSS hampered its operations.
“The operatives of the Lagos Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, arrived at their office on No. 15 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, this morning, May 30, 2023, to be denied entry by agents of the Department of State Services, DSS, who had barricaded the entrance with armoured personnel carriers.
“This development is strange to the commission given that we have cohabited with the DSS in that facility for 20 years without incident. By denying operatives access to their offices, the commission’s operations at its largest hub with over 500 personnel, hundreds of exhibits and many suspects in detention have been disrupted.
“Cases scheduled for court hearing today have been aborted, while many suspects, who had been invited for questioning are left unattended. Even more alarming is that suspects in detention are left without care with grave implications for their rights as inmates,” it said.
The commission further said, “All of these have wider implications for the nation’s fight against economic and financial crimes. The siege is inconsistent with the synergy expected of agencies working for the same government and nation, especially when there are ongoing discussions on the matter.”
Yet, in a separate statement, the DSS said the EFCC had reached out to it on the matter.
“It may be recalled that the media had earlier today (30/05/2023) reported a barricade of EFCC Lagos office by the Department of State Services (DSS). The service hereby informs the public that the leadership of EFCC has reached out to it for a final resolution of issues surrounding the property under reference.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it is important to note that the commission does not use the 15 Awolowo Road DSS-owned property as holding facility for its suspects. As such, the service never hindered the commission’s access to its suspects anywhere.
“While the service has accepted the commission’s entreaties and certain concessions, sections of the media are advised to apply restraint in their reportage of the matter in order to avoid instigating any rancours between the two agencies,” it said.