Group Warns EFCC Against Renewed Persecution Of Sylva

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A group, Bayelsa Democratic Front (BDF), has warned against what it called the renewed persecution of the former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In a statement issued in Yenagoa on Thursday by its President-General, Promise Okpoebi, against the backdrop of a fresh suit by EFCC against Sylva, the group said the move against the former governor was both legally indefensible and morally reprehensible. This, it said, was given the pendency of an appeal by Sylva at the Court of Appeal in a similar case brought against him by EFCC.

BDF alleged that the fresh move against Sylva, involving “a ridiculous 39-count charge of money laundering,” was in apparent reaction to his suspected sponsorship of the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), in his home state of Bayelsa, where President Goodluck Jonathan also hails from.

It said, “We would have been pleasantly surprised if the EFCC had remained non-partisan in these days of political anxiety. This is so because when recently reports emerged alleging that Sylva was behind the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) in President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa, not a few Nigerians believed the political atmosphere might elicit another round of EFCC’s political prosecution against the former governor.”

BDF also frowned on what it termed a strange exclusion of the Sylva-era Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Silva Opuala-Charles, from the suit by EFCC, saying it is a devious scheme to use the former commissioner against Sylva.

“But we believe that this onslaught against Sylva by EFCC, like the previous ones, will fail,” BDF said, stressing, “Sylva will always be vindicated by the forces of divine justice.”

EFCC had on September 30 brought the fresh charges against Sylva and the then Bayelsa State Accountant-General, Mr Francis Okokuro, at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The full statement reads:

“It has come to our knowledge that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has filed yet another suit against the former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva. This is despite a pending appeal by the former governor against the commission at the Court of Appeal.

“We would have been pleasantly surprised if the EFCC had remained non-partisan in these days of political anxiety. This is so because when recently reports emerged alleging that Sylva was behind the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) in President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa, not a few Nigerians believed the political atmosphere might elicit another round of EFCC’s political prosecution against the former governor.

“Nigerians are already aware of EFCC’s part in the political harassment of persons perceived to be opponents of the president. Since the illegal exclusion of Sylva from the Bayelsa State governorship race last year, the commission has played this role in a most bizarre manner. This is in obvious continuation of plots hatched at the highest political levels to frustrate Sylva politically.

“In the case filed by EFCC at the Federal High Court in Abuja on September 30 with charge no FHC/167/CR/2013, the commission reeled off a ridiculous 39-count charge of money laundering against Sylva and the former accountant general of the state, Mr. Francis Okokuro.

“Like a leopard that cannot change its spots, it is clear that EFCC has simply found an auspicious political juncture to continue its signature political persecution of Sylva. If not, how would the commission devise such a suit at a time when its case of a similar nature against the former governor is pending at the appeal court?

“Do due process, impartiality, judicial morality and integrity not require that the commission should wait for the verdict of the appeal court before taking any further steps concerning Sylva?

“Besides, if not for politics, how would EFCC charge the governor and the accountant general, and leave out the Commissioner of Finance, Dr. Silva Opuala-Charles, on whose advice everyone knows the governor approves funds. It is common knowledge that the governor of a state does not have direct dealings with any bank concerning state funds. It is the Commissioner of Finance and the accountant-general that handle such transactions with the approval of the governor.

“So any serious prosecution for money laundering must ordinarily involve the finance commissioner who should have the details of the financial transactions of the state government.

“But in the pursuit of its immoral enterprise of political persecution against Sylva, EFCC has omitted the governor’s finance commissioner.

“We are aware that such omission is deliberate, to leave room for the procurement of a “star” witness in the desperate persecution of the former governor.

“But we believe that this onslaught against Sylva by EFCC, like the previous ones, will fail.

“Sylva will always be vindicated by the forces of divine justice.”

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