The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Thursday said more judges are under its watch list, with some facing investigation and others being charged for corruption.
Speaking to journalists at a news conference at the commissionâ€™s headquarters in Abuja, EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, said the commission in recent times had expedited action in prosecuting corrupt judges in the judiciary.
According to him, â€œthe commission has in the past few weeks stepped up investigation into cases of alleged corruption in the judiciary. As we speak, some prominent judicial officers have been quizzed while others have been invited for interrogation.â€
Uwujaren explained that â€œat this stage of investigation, it will be premature to state details as the charges are still mere allegations,â€ stressing that the facts and the judiciary officers involved would be made public â€œonce prima facie cases have been established.â€
According to him, â€œby the time we start mentioning names now, it will jeopardise our investigations. I crave your indulgence to exercise patience, whenever we are through with our investigations, we will get back to you. All I can say is that we have invited some and some will soon be invited,â€ he maintained.
He declined to comment on the position of the EFCC on the case of Justice Gladys Olotu who was recently retired as a judge as a result of gross misconduct. Uwujaren, at the briefing, informed journalists that though he had learnt of an injunction preventing the commission from arresting Olotu, but rather maintained that, the injunction will not stop the work of the commission.
â€œI learnt that there is an injunction, I have not seen it myself, what we are doing now is investigation, and I donâ€™t think that order covers investigation and prosecution.â€
While substantiating the facts regarding the recurring scandals rocking the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Uwujaren said: â€œOn the unremitted $20 billion, we are waiting for the National Assembly to conclude its investigations on the matter. The outcome of their investigations will shed more light on the exact figure that is missing. I appeal to you to be patient, once the National Assembly finishes their work, you can be rest assured that something will done.â€
Speaking against the backdrop of the emergence of former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose as the governorship candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections who is also facing alleged corruption charges, EFCC spokesman said the decision to bar a candidate who is under corruption charges is squarely the responsibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
â€œI think that question should be directed to INEC and not the EFCC. EFCC is not statutorily charged with clearing candidates for an election. It is the electoral umpire that can clear candidates and determine whether one is fit and proper to contest an election. It is for INEC to look at the background of the candidate that is featuring in an election and determine whether that candidate is suitable or otherwise.â€ Uwujaren said.
The commission also gave an insight into the confiscation of properties belonging to one of the culprits in the pension scam, Dr. Shuaibu Teidi, a former director in the Office of the Head of Service. He said EFCC was able to â€œpush for an asset forfeiture process that resulted in the final forfeiture of Brifina Hotel to the federal government.â€
â€œThe hotel was among the assets seized from Teidi, the property located at Plot 1106 Cadastral Zone BO2, Durumi District, Abuja was allegedly acquired by Teidi through his company Badawulu Ventures for N339 million with proceeds from crime.â€
He said though the accused denied ownership of the confiscated property, the previous owner was able to expose the accused leading to the granting of the forfeiture by Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja.â€
On other issues concerning recovery, the commission stressed that the issue of return of assets seized from former governor of Bayelsa State Dieprieye Alamiyeseigha was a â€˜needless controversy.â€™
Uwujaren stated that â€œit is indeed unfortunate some people decided to stir a needless controversy in an otherwise settled matter. I am sure some of you were witnesses in 2010 precisely in July 10, 2010 when the assets recovered from Alamieyeseigha were handed over to the Bayelsa State Government. Timipre Sylva, then governor of the state was on hand to receive the assets which included Chelsea Hotel, Abuja from former Chairman of EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri.
â€œIn all, assets valued at N3.1 billion; $441,000; 7000 euros and 2000 pounds were returned to Bayelsa State Government. The commission acted professionally in the management and return of these assets in line with the order of the Federal High Court, Lagos which convicted the now pardoned former governor.â€
Following in the same light, the commission has also declared wanted one of the suspects involved in the fuel subsidy scam. The suspect, Suen Ogunbambo is wanted for several charges. The EFCC spokesman contended that much as Ogunbambo is on the run, â€œhe has become a fugitive from the law, having failed to present himself for trial after he was granted bail by the court.â€
He pointed out that â€œOgunbambo, alongside his company Nasama Oil, Christian Taylor and Mamman Nasir are standing trial for allegedly obtaining N5.46 billion from the Federal Government, by a false claim that the sum represented subsidy accruing to them under the Petroleum Support Fund for the importation of 61,049,937 litres of premium motor spirit.â€
However, the commission frowned on the frequent waves of attacks on its staff and operatives, warning that any further case of infringement on its staff, the EFCC would no longer tolerate such attacks.
Citing an incident that occurred recently where one of the operative was almost killed at Gbagada Estate, Lagos; the commission said it happened when a suspect was escaping from arrest.
The EFCC said it would not relent in its efforts to rid the country of graft despite â€œthe hazards which operatives of the commission face in the discharge of their duties.â€