Oscar Chukwugekwu, Abuja
The Senate on Tuesday vowed to go ahead with the probe of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, on Wednesday over an alleged N1 trillion scam, despite internal opposition against the move from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senate caucus.
It would be recalled that the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions had on the strength of petition forwarded to it against Lamorde by Mr. George Uboh over an alleged N1 trillion scam in the agency.
As a result, the Committee has summoned both the petitioner and Lamorde to appear before it today through separate letters last Friday.
The fraud allegedly perpetrated by Larmode was said to have dated back to his days as the Director of Operations of the EFCC between 2003 and 2007, as well as an acting Chairman of the commission between June 2007 and May 2008, when the then Chairman of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, was away for a course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos in Plateau State.
In his petition dated July 31, 2015, Uboh, Chief Executive Officer of Panic Alert Security Systems, a security firm, accused Lamorde of some specific instances of under-remittance and non-disclosure of proceeds of corruption recovered from criminal suspects, including a former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, and a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Dimipreye Alamieyeseigha.
He assured the Senate that he would produce “overwhelming evidence” to back his claims against Lamorde.
Uboh also alleged that the EFCC had not accounted for “offshore recoveries” and that “over half of the assets seized from suspects are not reflected in EFCC exhibit records”.
But in a jointly signed statement by all the four PDP principal officers in the Senate yesterday, the Senate and in particular, the Committee was admonished to suspend the public hearing for now.
“This is not the appropriate time for such a sensitive assignment, more so, when a similar move to that effect on the floor of the Senate recently failed,” the statement read in part.
But the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Samual Anyanwu, however, noted that the call was based on misinformation.
According to Anyanwu, in an interview session with journalists yesterday, the PDP leadership in the Senate, namely: the Minority Leader, Senator Godwill Akpabio; Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Philip Aduda; Minority Whip, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha and Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, confused his committee’s invitation to Lamorde to a failed one, earlier moved on the floor of the Senate in the form of an amendment to a prayer in a motion.
He said that Lamorde’s scheduled appearance before his committee today along with the man, who alleged him to be involved in N1 trillion scam, is a fall out of a petition to that effect, which falls within the ambit of the functions of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition.
“As the Chairman Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, I am answerable to the Senate in the first instance. Two, this Committee attends to every petitions that come from the public and the invitation to the EFCC boss is one of those petitions and the petitioner is going to appear before the Committee.
“If you look at the press statement by the Senate Minority Leader and by extension, PDP leader, Senator Akpabio, it was a misinformation. This is so because he is wrongly linking Lamorde and other invitation to what happened on the floor of the Senate weeks ago when an attempted amendment of a prayer in motion, where the CBN Governor (Mr. Godwin Emefiele) was to be invited with the EFCC boss regarding money laundering and all that, but rejected. So, their statement was clearly based on misinformation,” Anyanwu explained.
He added that the Committee is going ahead with the probe today.
“This is a standing committee of the Senate. It is not only EFCC boss that was invited. There are other petitions, which we have invited the petitioners and those petitioned against.
‘We have FIRS, Comptroller General of Customs that are also coming tomorrow (today). So, I don’t know why this should be an issue. We are guided by the Senate Standing Rule and the 1999 Constitution to invite anybody when the matter arises,” he added.
When asked what next in case the embattled EFCC boss refuses to honour the invitation, he said: “I cannot conclude that now because I don’t want to pre-empt anything for now”.
He, however, allayed fears that the move against Lamorde by the Committee is not vindictive in anyway as being perceived in some quarters.
“There are many ways the Senate can operate, at the Plenary, committee and the constituency. We are on vacation. A committee like Ethics and Privileges, we have a lot petitions, and now that we are on recess, each member agrees to spend their time to work. And we have to turn in the report of these petitions at the floor of the Senate for the consideration of the entire Senate.
“We have so many petitions, up to 10 petitions. This is the summary of petitions received so far. That of EFCC is one of them and FIRS and so many of them. There is no situation that because we are on recess we cannot sit.
“Two, the issue of invitation of Senate President’s wife has nothing to do with our job. It is not on that basis (motion) that we are inviting the EFCC boss. This Committee is a fact-finding committee. Our job is: every petition that comes to this committee must be treated.
“There is one implication. If somebody says there is a petition against the EFCC boss, the person is a Nigerian. He has the right, and as long as he will come before the Committee to substantiate the petition, we must take it serious. Because if you don’t take it up, what you will hear is that people will say probably we have been settled; that is why we didn’t bring up the matter. It’s only a mere allegation. We cannot convict anybody, we are not a law court,” Anyanwu said.
He, however, said that the divergent positions of the lawmakers over today’s probe exercise has not in anyway created a divided senate.
“There is no divided Senate. It is just a misinformation on the part of the PDP caucus. At least somebody can be misinformed and when you get the accurate information instead of going back to counter, you will keep quiet and join others in doing the right thing,” he explained.
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