LAGOS — Embattled Majority Leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Mr Chidi Lloyd who was arrested for allegedly hitting an anti-Amaechi lawmaker with a fake mace may be in for more trouble as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday stormed the state capital, Port Harcourt to quiz him and other lawmakers for undisclosed financial crimes.
The lawmaker on his part is suing the Inspector General of Police, seeking N50 billion as damages for alleged inhuman treatment meted to him in detention, just as a Rivers State High Court sitting in Ahoada, yesterday, admitted him to bail.
Vanguard learnt that in a bid to thwart the release of Lloyd on bail, EFCC operatives want to probe his tenure as majority leader of the Rivers House of Assembly and take steps to prosecute him with immediate effect.
The agents are likely to arrest Lloyd to answer some fraud-related charges over which he might be moved to Abuja for trial.
Under the plot said to have been hatched by top Federal Government officials in Abuja, the EFCC has been ordered to file some fraud-related charges against Lloyd in order to prevent the state Attorney-General, who has powers to try him for attempted murder, from doing so.
It was also gathered that in a bid to nail the lawmaker, a crack team of EFCC operatives, had already arrived Port Harcourt and searched his home for ‘credible evidence’ in order to nail him.
Although it was not clear over which financial or economic matter Lloyd was being investigated by the anti-graft agency, it was learnt that the move was aimed at thwarting any move by the state to free him from prosecution over the attack on Michael Chinda.
A top Rivers State official lamented yesterday that it was painful that the Federal Government was playing dirty in a bid to jail Lloyd.
The source said: “They have brought in the EFCC to interrogate and investigate Chidi Lloyd, the House Leader. They want to take over the prosecution by ulterior means.
The government is trying to change the charge from attempted murder, which is under the state purview to fraud-related issues so as to use the EFCC to prosecute Lloyd in order to please some interested persons in Abuja.
“We fear that some desperate persons might have planted something in Lloyd’s house in order to use it against him and Governor Amaechi,” the source alleged.
But the EFCC said yesterday that its operatives were in Port Harcourt to probe Lloyd over an undisclosed ‘investigative matter’, adding that it was not under the instruction of anyone or institution to do its work.
Spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the presence of the agency’s operatives in Port Harcourt with a view to probe Lloyd but did not say over which matter he was being investigated.
“Our operatives are actually in Rivers State over an ongoing investigation that involves Lloyd and others in a number of South-South states,” Uwujaren said.
Asked to give details of the probe, the spokesman said: “There are no details now because we don’t want to conduct the investigation on the pages of newspapers.”
Lloyd was transferred from the Police Headquarters in Abuja to the Rivers State Police Command, where he is being kept and prosecuted for attempting to kill his colleague for daring to attack him on July 9, 2013 during a failed bid to unseat the leadership of the 32-member House of Assembly.
Although the state Attorney General is expected by law to prosecute the matter for which he is being charged, a private legal practitioner is being used by the prosecution to try the Majority Leader, a development opposed by the state. The intervention of the EFCC is however seen as a dramatic twist to the trial, which is likely to take a new shape this week.
Chidi Lloyd granted bail
Eighteen days after Lloyd was arrested, a Rivers State High Court sitting in Ahoada, yesterday, admitted him to bail.
Lloyd was first charged before Justice Justice L. Nyordee of the state high court in Port Harcourt on charges of conspiracy and attempted murder, but argument by counsel over the propriety of the prosecution counsel, a private lawyer, prosecuting the case without the fiat of the state Attorney-General stalled the charge being read to him and his plea being taken.
A Federal High Court, last week, also refused a similar bail application. But the trial judge of the state high court in Ahoada, Justice Charles Wali, admitted Lloyd to bail, yesterday.
The court, also ordered Lloyd to submit a photocopy of his international passport to enable him attend to his health. His lawyer had argued, “We came here (court) because of his deteriorating health condition. Police may not bring him to court tomorrow (today) or the court may not even sit. So this is the magic. The judiciary is calling for his release. The Police have no business keeping him.”
Rivers PDP faction faults bail
Factional state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, led by Felix Obuah, has, meanwhile, faulted the bail granted Lloyd. He has also petitioned the National Judicial Council, NJC and described the bail as a travesty of justice.
The state PDP chairman in a statement, yesterday, said: “The leadership of PDP in Rivers State has expressed shock and utter disappointment over the bail granted the former leader of the state House of Assembly, Chidi Lloyd, who is in police detention for attempted murder by an Ahoada High Court today (yesterday). This is a vindication of our fears and alarm that Mr Michael Chindah cannot get justice in Rivers State.
“Alarmed by this seeming contradiction in the face of ongoing sanitization of the judiciary by the NJC, the bail and order stopping further arrest and prosecution of Chidi Lloyd made by Justice Wali is a travesty of justice.”
The statement by the Special Adviser on Media to the state PDP, Jerry Needam, queried the logic behind the order by Justice Wali in a case properly before another judge of coordinate jurisdiction in Port Harcourt, who is handling the matter and has adjourned till August 6, 2013.
The statement noted with disdain the plot to drag and further implicate the state judiciary in a clear criminal case of attempted murder.
“This has confirmed our earlier claim and fears that Governor Rotimi Amaechi and his cohorts are doing all within their power, using his office to want to let Chidi Lloyd off the hook while his victim, Michael Chinda is dying in a London hospital. Why run to far away Ahoada when the offence for which Lloyd was arrested was committed in Port Harcourt?”
IG shuns Rivers Police Hqtrs
In a related development, Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, yesterday, shunned the state Police headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, during his visit to the state. He also did not visit Government House, Port Harcourt, though Vanguard gathered that Governor Chibuike Amaechi was in town at the time of his visit to Port Harcourt.
He also avoided the media during his visit. The police boss was in Port Harcourt to commission 100 vehicles donated by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC to the Police at the Police Primary school in Town area of Port Harcourt.
The sudden change in his itinerary could not be explained at the Police headquarters on Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, though some top Police officers argued that it may not be unconnected with the political development in the state.
Top Police officers who did not want their names mentioned said the IG was aware of an interaction between him and the media slated for 10am at the Police headquarters. “He was aware of the media arrangement for 10am. On a second thought he chose to skip it,” a source said.