Olukoyede: EFCC Went Above and Beyond to Give Yahaya Bello Fair Hearing

•Agency begins probe of contract awards in presidency, NASS, judiciary, others 

•To arraign Hadi Sirika next week over alleged N8 billion fraud

Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ola Olukoyede, yesterday, went the extra mile to clear insinuations surrounding the impending trial of the former Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, saying he personally spoke to the ex-governor and assured him requisite courtesies would be extended to him.

Olukoyede spoke in Abuja while briefing journalists on the innovation, restructuring agenda, and other developments in some sectors of the economy.

The EFCC chairman, who addressed extensively the ongoing trial of Bello, also said as a result of the commission’s reform agenda, it had created a Fraud Risk Assessment and Control Department through which it flagged off a probe of the presidency, National Assembly, the judiciary, and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), among other agencies.

EFCC also scheduled to arraign a former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in court next week, THISDAY gathered.

The EFCC chairman explained that the commission had not broken any law in seeking to prosecute Bello. He said the judgement of the Kogi State High Court only provided it with the lead to file the case at the Federal High Court.

He said Nigerians must come together to fight the scourge of corruption, and added that the commission gave the former governor a long rope in its investigations.

Olukoyede stated, “As the chairman, I personally called the former governor and gave him all due respect, including allowing him to be interrogated in my office, but the man declined.

“If I fail to investigate and prosecute Yahaya Bello, I would not have the moral right to prosecute others, including the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Willie Obiano, and the former governor of Kwara State, Abdulfatah Ahmed.

“The commission is monitoring all those involved in one way or the other in the Yahaya Bello saga. We are watching them and we will prosecute all of them at the right time. If they have immunity today, they will not have immunity tomorrow.”

He also spoke on the Fraud Risk Assessment and Control Department through which the commission had commenced probe of some government agencies.

Olukoyede said, “We have begun with the State House because we believe it is not a place we cannot go to. We met with the president recently, and he asked us to go and do our work. And we wrote to his Chief of Staff to furnish us with the process of awarding contracts and within a week, he replied.

“We also wrote to the National Assembly to furnish us with the process of awarding contracts and the cars they buy and, surprisingly, they replied. The same thing with the Chief Justice of the Federation.

“It is not about the investigations and the convictions we have secured but about the source of this crime. The more I prosecute people, the more I recover money, but the more we face this problem.”

While appealing to the media and civil society organisations to support the commission’s campaign against corruption, Olukoyede hinted that EFCC had recovered about N120 billion in the last six months, and was unrelenting in its activities.

He stated, “We will receive all the attacks, but we will never give up. We will continue to do our work until we are asked to step aside. My appeal is that we must see the need to work together.

“If EFCC fails, it is our country that fails. The fight against corruption is about all of us. A thousand EFCC cannot do anything if we don’t get the support of Nigerians.”

The EFCC chairman said having followed a particular trend in investigating economic crimes in the past, the commission was trying to ensure prevention as a way of tackling the crime.

He said if the country would not address the prevention of financial crimes, a thousand of EFCC and ICPC could not secure a reprieve for Nigeria.

“Gentlemen, if we don’t address our processes and procedures a thousand EFCC and ICPC cannot achieve,” Olukoyede stated.

He added that by blocking the leakages, the anti-corruption war would receive the needed bounce.

“On the first note, we have embarked on some restructuring. We must understand that we need to come together and fight this battle,” he said.

The EFCC boss also said his men would soon commence full probe into the activities of illegal miners, adding that it would prosecute all those involved in illegally carting away the country’s resources. He disclosed that some 40 trucks of illegally mined lithium had already been apprehended in Kwara State.

Olukeyede said the commission had also recovered the sum of N120 billion in the last six months, and would not relent in its activities.

Alleged N8bn Fraud: EFCC to Arraign Sirika

EFCC scheduled to arraign former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in court next week, THISDAY learnt.

Sirika will face charges in connection with an ongoing investigation related to fraud and money laundering amounting to N8,069,176,864.00.

The former minister was at the Federal Capital Territory Command of the anti-graft agency around 1:00pm yesterday.

Upon his arrival, he was grilled by EFCC operatives over alleged fraudulent contracts he authorised for a company called Engirios Nigeria Limited, owned by his younger sibling, Abubakar Sirika.

Abubakar Sirika is a deputy director at the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.

A source close to the investigation said Sirika was questioned with regard to ongoing investigations by the agency.

“We invited him to ask him questions in relation to our investigations. He will be charged to court next week,” the source said.

EFCC investigations showed that Sirika awarded contracts to his brother, Abubakar, knowing that the latter was a civil servant, a deputy director on Level 16 in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, where he had been working since 2000.

The first of the controversial contracts from the former minister to Engirios Nigeria Limited was on August 18, 2022 for the construction of Terminal Building at Katsina Airport, at the cost of N1,345,586,500.

The second was awarded on November 3, 2022 for the establishment of Fire Truck Maintenance and Refurbishment Centre at Katsina Airport, valued at N3.8 billion.

The third contract was on February 3, 2023 for the procurement and instalment of lifts, air conditioners and power generator’s house in Aviation House, Abuja, at the cost of N615 million.

The fourth was awarded on May 5, 2023 for the procurement of Magnus Aircraft and simulator for Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, at the cost of N2.2 billion.

The source stated that out of the total contract sum, the ex-minister paid out N3.2 billion to his younger brother’s Engirios Nigerian Limited, who upon the receipt of the payment, transferred it to different companies and individuals.

“There is no trace of work done on any of the contract items till date,” the source said.

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