Less than 48 hours after five governors were ordered to vacate their seats by the Supreme Court, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has launched an investigation into the corruption claims against them.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the acting Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, has instructed EFCC operatives to invite the ex-governors of Kogi, Adamawa, Sokoto, Cross River and Bayelsa for interrogation.
Some of the former governors had petitions written against them when they were in government but they could not be invited for questioning because of the immunity clause that shielded them while in office.
The immunity clause which is spelt out in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution provides that, “No civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against a person to whom this section applies during his period of office; A person to whom this section applies shall not be arrested or imprisoned during that period either in pursuance of the process of any court or otherwise;
“And no process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of a person to whom this section applies, shall be applied for or issued: Provided that in ascertaining whether any period of limitation has expired for the purposes of any proceedings against a person to whom this section applies, no account shall be taken of his period of office.”
The clause applies to a person holding the office of president or vice-president, governor or deputy governor.
A very reliable source within the EFCC who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that already letters of invitation had been prepared to be dispatched to the ex-governors.
“The letters are going out next week. The petitions have been with us for some time. We need them to answer all the allegations. If we are not satisfied, we are going to court. We will ensure we do thorough investigations.
“This is not a case of witch-hunting anybody. The petitions have been with us for a while and now that they don’t have the immunity, we have to do our work,” she said.
SUNDAY PUNCH authoritatively gathered that the former governor of Kogi State, Ibrahim Idris, would be one of the first governors to get his letter.
Last year, a group, Kogi Patriots, had accused Idris and his son-in-law Idris Wada, of contract fraud and urged the EFCC to probe the allegations.
In a petition signed by Mohammed Idris and sent to the anti-graft agency, the group said, “We are the leaders of Kogi Patriots, Kogi State. Our mission, among others, is to expose all forms of anti-people activities, fraud, economic and financial crimes, and to ensure that people of questionable character with self-seeking mission do not ride on the crest of any of the political parties to Lugard House as governor or to any elective office in Kogi State.
“We are very passionate about this and will not spare any efforts to ensure that only credible people with clean records and unblemished antecedents get to public office in Kogi State, our own dear father land.
“The Governor of Kogi State in connivance with Wada have looted Kogi State treasury under the guise of payment for contracts not executed and or payments for contracts in excess and far above the extent of job done.”
The source said there was little the agency could do about the petition when it was first sent in because Idris, as governor then, enjoyed some constitutional privileges.
Also to be interrogated is ex-governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State. In October 2011, the EFCC had said it was going to probe Nyako and some top government officials for an alleged N6.8bn fraud in respect of inflated contracts.
Just last month, workers in Adamawa State called on the EFCC to probe the recent donation of 21 vehicles and N5m by Adamawa State Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Kobis Thimnu, to Nyako’s campaign organisation.
The workers who decried the non-payment of their salaries for several months expressed shock on how the SSG got such huge number of vehicles and cash to donate to the governor’s campaign body.
Similarly, a group, Initiative For Restoration of Accountability, last November, had urged the EFCC to investigate former governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State.
The IRA led by Miebi Macdonald and Timitimi Telema said, “It has become obvious that most of the ill- gotten property of Governor Silva were not included in the asset declaration form. We appeal to the anti-graft agencies to get to the root of these matters to help Bayelsa State recover her stolen wealth to at least complete all the on-going projects in the state.”
Not left out of the investigations is Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State. The anti-graft commission had earlier said it was investigating Imoke for unspecified petitions and allegations.
SUNDAY PUNCH further gathered that Imoke’s name was allegedly mentioned in the long-awaited report of the controversial House of Representatives Committee on Power.
It was learnt that at least N242.6bn was allegedly lost by the nation in the execution of the $13bn (N2tn) power projects during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and that if members of the House of Representatives accept recommendations of the committee, prosecution may soon commence against Obasasnjo and Imoke for their alleged shoddy handling of electricity projects across the country.
The report had also reportedly called for the prosecution of the former Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu; the former Managing Director of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Joseph Makoju; a former Minister of Energy, Abdulhamid Ahmed; and National Integrated Power Project officials.
The source further told our correspondent that apart from Idris and Nyako, Sylva and Imoke, ex-governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto State also had a pending case before the commission.
Confirming this latest move, the spokesman for the commission, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said, “Some of the governors have pending cases against them and we are going to invite them to make statements.”
Uwujaren was however reluctant to disclose the nature and number of petitions against the ex-governors.
“It won’t be proper for me to start giving that information out now because they have yet to tell their own sides of the story. We need to hear from them first before we start saying all of that.”
When pressed further on when the former state executives will report at the headquarters of the commission, the spokesman said, “very soon.”
CULLED FROM punchng.com