Group commends EFCC plan to investigate, prosecute Rivers Govt officials over financial misconduct

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

The Conscience of Ogoni People (COOP) has lauded the decision of the Economic Financial and Crime Commission, EFCC, to investigate the financial activities of the Rivers State government officials.

Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu had during a media briefing in Port Harcourt stated the judgement stopping the commission from investigating Rivers State governors of financial misappropriation will no longer stand, hence the commission will soon embark on investigation and prosecution of offenders in the said issue.

In a statement issued to pressmen in Port Harcourt, by the Leader of the Ogoni indigenous group, Chief Gani Topba called on the commission to investigate alleged pending cases of misappropriation of finance by officials of the state government.

He said: ‘it is with a deep sense of satisfaction and gladness that we received the news of the decision of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate all pending cases of criminal misappropriation of our commonwealth and financial sleaze perpetrated under the current administration in Rivers State, more particularly, the unexplained origin, source and destination of the US$150 million claimed to have been spent by the government in the purported attempt to acquire a phantom Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited’s 45 percent equity in OML 11 (Ogoni Fields) which occurred on or about September and October 2019.

‘Recall that just a few days ago, we petitioned the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and the EFCC as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate a suspected case of fraud amounting to US$150 million claimed to have been paid by the Rivers State Government for the purported and failed acquisition of a phantom SPDC 45 percent equity in OML 11 (Ogoni Fields) which took place on or about September and October 2019.

‘We predicated the ground of our petition dated 31 December 2019 on the double speaking of the Governor of Rivers State. Thus, after stating that the Rivers State Government has paid the sum of US$150 million to the claimants/judgment creditors (Ejama-Ebubu community in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State) for the purported acquisition of the Ogoni oil block. Our suspicion is that the said amount may have been diverted into personal bank accounts/pockets which diversion and misappropriation is bound to have a ripple effect on the economy and long-suffering people of Rivers State.

‘As a foremost advocacy group in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, we believe that as citizens of Rivers State, we have a right under extant Nigerian laws to demand transparency, probity and accountability in the utilization of scarce State funds.

‘We have noted the decision of the EFCC to set aside the perpetual injunction granted by the Honourable Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court Port Harcourt against the EFCC barring the anti-graft agency from investigating the financial transactions of the Rivers State Government during the Governor Peter Odili administration in 2007.

‘While we appreciate and support the EFCC’s move to vacate the sleaze enhancing order, we place it on record that the US$150 million and the OML 25 bribe which we have petitioned the EFCC to investigate in respect of the Governor’s involvement in OMLs 11 and 25 are not affected by the said judgment. OMLs 11 and 25 are peculiar cases which have nothing to do with the injunctive order obtained in 2007.

‘It is also refreshing to posit that there are myriads of Supreme Court of Nigeria pronouncements on the power of anti-graft agencies to investigate and prosecute all cases of fraud, corruption, money laundering, criminal diversion and misappropriation of funds and so on, without any inhibition, including judicial inhibition. The Supreme Court of Nigeria has also held that a court of law is without jurisdiction to prevent anti-graft agencies from discharging their statutory responsibilities.

‘We rely on these authorities, therefore, to urge the EFCC and the ICPC to proceed forthwith to investigate the origin, source and destination of the US$150 million claimed to have been spent by the Rivers State Government on the purported acquisition of OML 11 (Ogoni Fields) as well as the OML 25 bribe for the greater good and development of not only the Ogoni people but also the people of Rivers State. Ogoni people are in support of EFCC’s action in this regard and have vowed to offer the agency all necessary support to trace and retrieve our commonwealth as well as the prosecution of identified culprits’.

Meanwhile, it would be recalled that the Rivers State Government has reiterated that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has no power to investigate the financial transactions of the state.

Reacting to statements credited to Mr Ibrahim Magu, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, stated that EFCC can only investigate the government if it vacates the Federal High Court judgment that declared that it cannot investigate the financial transactions of the government.

“Magu cannot claim that that judgement cannot stand, except he wants Nigerians to believe that he has started issuing instructions to the Supreme Court.

“It is unfortunate that in a democracy someone holding a public office would want to muzzle the Court, “the Commissioner said.

The Commissioner advised the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to be patient and desist from alleged illegality of arrogating to himself the judicial powers of courts.

“The EFCC should desist from self help and unnecessary political propaganda, as it will yield no results, ” he stated

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