Adoke’s Detention: Ozekhome Faults EFCC’s Action, Demands Bail For Ex-AGF

Mr Mike Ozekhome

 

 

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Ozekhome, faulted the latest action of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the prosecution of a former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Adoke.

In a statement personally signed by him on Friday, Ozekhome described the obtaining of a court order by the anti-graft agency to detain his client – Adoke – for two weeks as unnecessary.

He noted that the former AGF had already been charged to court even in absentia, while he was in the Netherlands for a masters’ degree programme.

Ozekhome stressed that his client returned to the country voluntarily, adding that he was surprised that Adoke was arrested by INTERPOL upon his arrival.

“Of what use is his present incarceration meant to achieve? Is it meant to subdue him, punish him, wear him out mentally, physically, spiritually, psychologically, and psychically?” he questioned.

READ ALSO: Court Orders Remand Of Former AGF Adoke For 14 Days

The senior advocate, therefore, called on the EFCC to grant the former AGF administrative bail to treat himself, saying that was why he went to Dubai.

He warned that failure to do so would force them to take legal steps to vacate the ex parte order.

Read Ozekhome’s full statement below:

It is quite surprising, if not distressing, to behold EFCC obtaining a two-week detention order to keep Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) in its custody.

This is a man they had already charged to court since 2017, even in absentia, whilst he was in the Netherlands pursuing his masters’ degree in International law.

This is a man they forwarded his charges to the UAE and Interpol authorities, with a view to preventing them from releasing him, based on the said existing charges.

This step led to a legal stalemate, since the UAE and Interpol authorities would not, and could never have extradited Adoke based on a non-existent warrant of arrest.

This is because the earlier warrant of arrest issued against him in April 2019, had since been vacated by the same Justice D.Z. Senchi that earlier issued it on 25th October,2019 after heated court argument between government lawyers and my humble self.

Adoke, therefore, elected to return to Nigeria voluntarily, purchasing his own ticket by himself and signing as such, accordingly.

I had issued a statement to the effect that Adoke was on his way back to Nigeria and would report to the EFCC with lawyers from my office upon his arrival.

It was, therefore, a matter of great surprise that the Interpol still arrested him upon arrival and handed him over to the EFCC.

Rather than the EFCC immediately arraigning him before a court based on charges already preferred against him even in absentia, it has resorted to obtaining an ex parte order from the FCT High Court to detain him for two weeks.

We don’t want to believe that Adoke will be persecuted rather than prosecuted. The last time I checked, cases are first thoroughly investigated before a suspect is charged to court as has been done in the Adoke matter.

Of what use is his present incarceration meant to achieve? Is it meant to subdue him? Punish him? Wear him out mentally, physically, spiritually, psychologically, and psychically?

Deny him justice? Subject him to public ridicule, derision, odium, and obloquy? Is it meant to negatively put him in the public domain, try him, convict him and sentence him through media trial?

All these will neither help the course of justice, nor promote constitutional democracy with its corollary in-built safety valves of advancing inalienable human rights and liberties as recognised by extant national, sub-regional, regional, and international civil rights instruments.

We humbly appeal to the EFCC to accord Adoke administrative bail to take care of his poor health, the very reason he had gone to Dubai.

In the event that this fails, we shall immediately take legal steps to vacate this ex parte order, with a view to protecting our client’s rights and securing his liberty.

Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN.

Counsel to Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN.

Ozekhome, EFCC Disagree Over Access To Adoke

Mr Mike Ozekhome

 

 

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Mike Ozekhome, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have disagreed over the claims that nobody was allowed access to a former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke.

This comes shortly after Mr Adoke returned to Nigeria from Dubai in company with INTERPOL officers aboard Emirates Airlines Flight 785.

The aircraft is said to have departed the Emirati commercial capital at about 8am Nigerian time and touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja after about eight hours later.

Ozekhome, who is Adoke’s lawyer, alleged that neither he nor any other person was allowed to talk to the former AGF.

READ ALSO: EFCC Detains Adoke Over Malabu Oil Scandal

According to the senior advocate, his client was picked up at the foot of the aircraft by INTERPOL officers and taken to the international organisation’s office in Abuja.

Reacting to the allegation, the anti-graft agency told Channels Television that the claim of denying access to Adoke was not correct.

Mr Tony Amokeodo who the spokesman for the acting EFCC Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, confirmed during an interview on Politics Today that the former AGF was already in the custody of the anti-graft agency.

He said, “That’s not correct; he (Ozekhome) is his (Adoke) lawyer. So, he has the right to say anything he wants to say.

“But the fact still remains that any detainee or suspect will be allowed to have access to his legal team.”

“We have him (Adoke) with us here and we are going to do some kind of question and answer session where he will be quizzed.

“He will have access to his lawyer. We have nothing to hide about the former AGF and what we are going to do will be within the ambit of the law,” Amokeodo assured.

The former AGF is facing charges bordering on alleged abuse of office and money laundering with respect to the granting of the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 to Shell and ENI filed against him and four others by the EFCC on behalf of the Nigerian Government.

We Cannot Confirm Adoke’s Return To Nigeria Or Otherwise, Says AGF

 

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, says he cannot make a comment to confirm or otherwise, the arrival of the former AGF, Mr Mohammed Adoke, into the country.

Malami stated this during a session with reporters on Thursday in Abuja on behalf of the Federal Government in reaction to a statement by the lawyer to Mr Adoke, Mike Ozekhome.

Adoke is facing charges bordering on alleged abuse of office and money laundering with respect to the granting of the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 to Shell and ENI.

READ ALSO: EFCC Detains Adoke Over Malabu Oil Scandal

Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had said that the former AGF who is also a SAN was not extradited but was set free by the police in Dubai.

According to him, Adoke gave assurance to the police in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) city that he wants to go home and “solve his problems back at home”.

Ozekhome also disclosed in the statement forwarded to Channels Television on Thursday that his client was already on his way back into the country of his own free will.

He said, “I can confirm to you authoritatively that Adoke has been released from the custody of the Interpol and will arrive in Nigeria at any moment.

“He was let off the hook because nothing incriminating was found on him and he has on his own volition opted to come back to Nigeria.”

“Adoke is not extradited by the Nigerian government because there is no reason for that. He is coming back to Nigeria to clear his name from the alleged Malabu oil scandal.

“He is innocent of the allegations against him, Adoke has not done anything wrong. He is already airborne and will land in Nigeria this afternoon today Thursday,” he added.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed the charges against the former AGF and four others on behalf of the Nigerian Government.

Following its inability to produce the defendants in court, the anti-graft agency approached a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja on April 17 to secure a warrant of arrest against them.

The court granted the request by the EFCC, leading to Adoke’s arrest by the police in Dubai in November.

The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, confirmed Adoke’s arrest about a week later during a courtesy visit to the EFCC headquarters.

Drama As Ozekhome Disowns Colleague During Trial Of Ex-Plateau Gov, Jang

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

There was mild drama at the continuation of the trial of a former governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, on Friday as his counsel, Mike Ozekhome, disowned another defence counsel, over the line of questioning.

Ex-governor Jang is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), alongside Yusuf Pam, a cashier at the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, for alleged N6.2billion fraud.

According to a statement signed by EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, Ozekhome disowned S.A Oguntiyi, Pam’s lawyer and expressed dismay at his line of questioning.

Oguntiyi while cross-examining the 11th prosecution witness, Musa Sunday, an operative of the EFCC, queried the testimony of the witness, with regards to monies paid to Jang.

READ ALSO: You Lack Power To Take Over Edo Assembly, Court Tells NASS

Replying, Sunday, however, revealed more of the findings while investigating the alleged fraud.

He said: “Although there was no withdrawal from the OSSG account, a cash deposit of N500,000 by the second defendant was seen on that particular day.

“In the course of investigations, during one of the interrogations with the team of EFCC detectives, the second defendant said the sum of N500,000 was a thank you gift and could not be accountable for.

“In the statement, dated January 16, 2017, made by Pam, he had however denied any receipt of any financial benefits from the Plateau State Government except salaries as a civil servant which was less than N80,000 monthly; so where then did he get cash of N500,000?

“The charges against Pam were not exclusive, but based on what the Legal team of the EFCC considered appropriate and as a civil servant there was no other source of income accrued to the second defendant, who is unable to prove the source of N71million in less than four years.

“Sometimes allowances are paid in cash by the second defendant to officials of the Plateau State House of Assembly and such allowances can be over N1million cash and in no particular order for sitting allowance, furniture allowance, domestic staff allowance, security allowance, and so on as sighted in the statement from Francis Bot, former Chief of Staff to the first defendant.”

At this point, however, Ozekhome, rose up and expressed dismay at the line of questioning of Oguntiyi, and promptly disowned him.

“I urge the judge to dismiss this line of questioning as it only further supports the investigation made by the EFCC and we are washing our hands off this mediocrity.

“If the documents are there why are you simply beating about the bush for hours on end?

“For lack of a better word, the judge must conclude the judgement on this case before his retirement by ending 2019. We do not want to embark on a de novo.

“At this point, we (the counsel for the first defendant) disassociate ourselves from this line of questioning during cross-examination by the second defendant,” Ozekhome said.

Afterwards, counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, informed the court that he had wanted to present the 12th prosecution witness, “but due to the listlessness and lack of valid substance that the defence counsel took so much time, it is unfortunate that the witness may have to appear at another trial date”.

However, Oguntiyi pressed on with his cross-examination, asking the witness if there were Closed Circuit Television, CCTV Cameras, at the Government House, and whether there was an investigation report on the case, wherein findings and recommendations were contained.

Responding, Sunday simply said: “The question about CCTV cameras cannot be answered by me, but the officials of the Plateau State Government House”, adding that, “there was a comprehensive investigation report, however, this is highly confidential and restricted for the EFCC perusal.”

Justice Longji, thereafter, cautioned the counsel, noting that the questions being asked, were mostly repetitions, and not necessary, wondering what Oguntiyi was trying to establish.

Continuing with the cross-examination, Oguntiyi thereafter inquired from the witness, if he was aware that the N10million found in the account of Pam, was a pay-off for his late wife.

Expressing dismay, Sunday noted that he was hearing that for the first time.

Judge Longji subsequently adjourned to September 30, 2019, for the defence team to close the cross-examination of the witness and continuation of trial.

Falana, Ozehkome, Exchange Words Over Ex-CJN Onnoghen’s Case

Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) Femi Falana and Mike Ozekhome on Tuesday disagreed over lawyers’ reaction to the removal of immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen.

They both exchanged words during the Rule of Law Session of the 59th Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Annual General Conference (AGC) in Lagos.

Ozekhome berated lawyers for not pouring out on the streets and shutting down the government to protest Onnoghen’s prosecution and conviction by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

READ ALSO: Court Declines To Hear Sowore’s Application Challenging Detention By DSS

He made reference to the case of President Pervez Mushraf who on March 9, 2007, according to him, unjustly and unconstitutionally removed Muhammed Mushraf as the Chief Justice.

“Can’t we do more than we have done”? Ozekhome questioned. He also faulted the NBA for not coming out to protest during Onnoghen’s removal.

In a swift reaction, Falana said the Chief Justice of Pakistan was not removed for corruption as in the case of Onnoghen.

He questioned the former president of the NBA Olisa Agbakoba saying, “Olisa, can the NBA morally go to the street to fight for judges who have millions that they cannot account for in their account?”

Minority Leader of the Senate, Eyinnaya Abaribe had earlier decried President Muhammadu Buhari’s removal of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen from the Supreme Court.

Abaribe blamed the Nigerian Bar Association and fellow judges for not taking action and remaining silent knowing fully well that a Chief Justice cannot be removed without coming to the Senate.

“In the matter of Onnoghen, what happened? We waited for the NBA, nothing happened? We waited for the fellow judges nothing happened. Because the law is very clear, you cannot remove a Chief Justice without coming to the senate yet, it happened, and nothing happened.”

The former President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba also at the event said Onnoghen’s removal would serve as a reference point in the future. He also appreciated Senator Abaribe for “telling us the truth.”

Sowore’s Arrest: This Government Is Allergic To Plurality Of Voices, Criticism – Ozekhome

Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Ozekhome.

 

Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Mike Ozekhome, has accused the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of not being tolerant to criticism. 

Ozekhome, who appeared as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, said the current government is “allergic to plurality of voices and criticism”.

He said: “Dancing on the street saying we don’t want bad governance how does that amount to treason, unreasonable felony?

“This government is allergic to plurality of voices, this government is allergic to criticism, this government is allergic to opinions. This government should know that Nigeria is a country with many colours.

“You cannot sample opinions. We cannot all sleep on the same bed. This government should learn to be tolerant,” he said.

His comment comes in the wake of the arrest of  former Presidential Aspirant of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 general elections, Omoyele Sowore by the Department of State Service, an act condemned by notable Nigerians including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

READ ALSO: DSS Arrests Omoyele Sowore

Following Sowore’s arrest, the Nigeria Police described the planned protests by some individuals as ‘treasonable felony and acts of terrorism’, vowing resist any act that can lead to a breach of law and order in the country.

But reacting to the allegation, Ozekhome disagreed with the government and security agencies, describing the allegations as “most illogical and damning.”

“That allegation is most plural, most damning and most illogical from the government or security spokespersons.

“What is treason? For the definition of treason, you have to look at Sections 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43 of the Criminal Code which applies in the Southern part of Nigeria.

“Then you must look at Section 410 of the Penal Code that applies in the Northern part of Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.  Treason is the act of overthrowing the sovereign government of a state,” he stated.

Earlier, a foremost Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, condemned the arrest, calling on the Federal Government to call the security agencies to order.

Onnoghen: Only NJC Has Powers To Suspend CJN, Says Ozekhome

 

Lawyer and human rights activist, Mike Ozekhome, has faulted the Federal Government’s decision to suspend the Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen.

According to him the only body that has the powers to suspend a top judge is the National Judicial Council.

He said this on Monday when he made an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today.

“The Only body that has the power to suspend is the NJC and since the Chief Justice is involved, all they need to do is to convene and the Chief Justice will not seat to chair it.

“The CJN occupies a special place like the Chief Judges that I’ve referred to and the grand cadre it’s not just like any judicial officer. For you to remove him or even any other judicial officer, the NJC must meet,” Ozekhome said.

Onnoghen’s Suspension: Senate Approaches Supreme Court, Cancels Tuesday’s Plenary

CCT Adjourns Onnoghen’s Alleged False Asset Declaration Case Indefinitely

 

His comments come days after President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the CJN, who is being tried over allegations of failing to declare his assets.

According to the president, the development was based on the request of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, pending the completion of the trial.

Following the suspension, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed was appointed as the acting CJN.

Ozekhome, however, stressed that with or without an exparte order, the President has no right to suspend the CJN.

He said, “No, no, no. He does not have the power. Whether on an exparte order or on a motion on notice or even on a court judgement because the powers of appointment and suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria are matters that are governed by the clear provisions of the Constitution.

“Sections 153, sections 158, Section 291, Section 292 (2) and the third schedule Section 21 part 1 and 2 of the 1999 Constitution.

“They say it is the NJC that nominates a person for appointment to the CJN. Then the CJN by 2/3rd majority vote confirms that appointment.

“The President merely plays a nominal role of now swearing in that person.

“It is the same route you follow when you are dismissing. The NJC recommends, the Senate by 2/3rd majority approves, then the president can remove”.

Dino Melaye’s Arrest ‘A Sad Reminder Of Hitler’s Gestapo Strategies’ – Ozekhome

As the controversy over the arrest of Senator Dino Melaye rages, the embattled lawmaker’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, has accused the police of abducting his client and adopting strategies reminiscent of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi regime.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria told Channels Television in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that his client was abducted by the police with the aim of forcefully arraigning him at a Federal High Court in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital.

“It is a sad reminder of Hitler’s Gestapo strategies of attempting to annihilate all opponents,” Ozekhome said, warning that the situation may get worse as the 2019 elections draw nearer.

“Nigerians have to wake up to the realities of the perilous times that we are now going through and more perilous times in the days, the weeks, the months ahead because of 2019 elections.”

Hours after Senator Melaye’s arrest on Tuesday morning by the police, he jumped from a moving police vehicle, injuring himself in the process. He was subsequently taken to a hospital in Abuja.

The police accused him of attempting to flee with the aid of hoodlums, but Ozekhome rejected the allegation.

According to him, the police deceived the Senator into submitting himself to them by telling him that he is to be arraigned in a court in Abuja only for them to head towards Lokoja.

He said upon realising the plan, the Senator was forced to jump out of the vehicle.

Ozekhome described the attempt to take the Senator to Lokoja as an affront to democracy and the rule of law.

On why Senator Melaye did not want to be tried in Lokoja, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said, “Dino has also complained that the various attempts to make sure that he is tried in Lokoja are for them to have an opportunity for sending him to jail at all cost; first, to be detained at the cell where – Dino told me as his lawyer – he feared that they will inject him or poison his food so that he would die instalmentally (sic) if not suddenly. Because of that, he said he would not go to Lokoja for trial.”

Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome

Court Affirms Ozekhome As Lawyer To Companies That Pleaded Guilty To Laundering $15.5m

Ozekhome

 

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ruled that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome was validly appointed to represent four companies which pleaded guilty to laundering the sum of $15.5 million allegedly linked to Mrs Patience Jonathan, wife of the President.

Justice Babs Kuewumi, gave this verdict while ruling today (Tuesday) on a dispute between Mr Ozekhome and another lawyer, Luke Aghanenu, over who was the validly appointed legal representative of the four companies.

The court held that Aghanenu, who claimed to have been appointed by the companies’ directors, was not properly briefed.

Mr Ozekhome had filed an application on behalf of the convicted companies asking the court to nullify the guilty plea entered by them, when Aghanenu was representing them, on the basis that they were not given fair hearing.

The companies are – Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Avalon Global Property Development Limited.

In Sept 2016, the companies had pleaded guilty to laundering the sum of $15.5m on behalf of Mrs Jonathan.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) subsequently arraigned them alongside a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku.

While the companies pleaded guilty to the charges, Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku however pleaded not guilty.

Shortly after their plea, Mr Ozekhome had then appeared in court to take over the case and subsequently asked Justice kuewunmi to nullify the guilty plea of the companies on the ground that the identities of those who “purportedly” pleaded guilty on their behalf were “unverified”.

Dino Melaye Will Appeal Court Ruling On Recall Process – Ozekhome

Ozekhome

The Senator representing Kogi West, Senator Dino Melaye, will appeal today’s ruling by the Federal High Court in Abuja, which reactivated the process for his recall.

Today’s judgment by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba effectively terminated the earlier ex parte order made by Justice John Tsoho which halted the recall process and Senator Melaye and his lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, said they will appeal it.

“The only aspect that we will probably appeal is the aspect that there was no constitutional requirement by INEC as the adjudicator to give a fair hearing to the person being recalled. I am happy that Mr Soyebi, the INEC’s spokesperson has said ‘Oh, we will give them a copy of the petition for the purpose of fair hearing,” Ozekhome said when he appeared on Channels Television’s Politics Today.

“The beauty about this decision is that the court essentially agreed with us. Our major complaint is that Dino Melaye was never even given a copy of this petition to peep into the schedule of the signatories to the petition to recall him. When he went to his constituency, all his constituents that he asked said ‘No, we didn’t append our signatures’.”

While Ozekhome is not interested in the politics behind the recall process, like his client, he alleged that the move was politically motivated.

He said, “Let me make clear again another point which some people don’t seem to know. There is Section 68, subsection 2 of the Constitution still awaiting all the players. Whether they were political motivated or not, Dino Melaye has argued in his case that it is politically motivated because he has issues with the governor.

“Section 68, subsection 2 – what many of them have never looked at is that in this checks and balances (doctrine of separation of powers) the executive has done its own by trying to recall Dino, the judiciary the judiciary has done its own today which decision will be appealed tomorrow.

Some of the constituents claimed they were deceived into signing the petition as people came to them under the guise of distributing fertilizer to them, according to Mr Ozekhome.

“They did not know it was for the purpose of a recall,” he said, adding that some of the constituents said they saw the names of their deceased relatives on the petition.

Based on this and in the spirit of fair hearing, Mr Ozekhome said it was important for Senator Melaye to review the signatories to determine whether they are genuine or fictitious.

Indeed, Justice Dimgba in his ruling today ordered INEC to serve Senator Melaye a copy of the petition with the schedule of signatures and list of petitioners. He also asked INEC to amend the recall timetable to give the plaintiff at least two weeks to prepare.

The court then dismissed all other prayers sought by the Senator.

Should Senator Melaye be unsatisfied with the petition after reviewing it, he has a right to go back to court.

Ozekhome said, “Let me quickly put this caveat so that others will get prepared when the battle comes up. If INEC now gives a copy of the petition to Dino Melaye and Dino Melaye now studies it and discovers that there are fictitious names there, there are names from Kogi East or Kogi North instead of Kogi West alone that is his constituency, that some of them are dead, that some of them were simulated and simply adopted from the register of INEC and pasted there, let me enter the caveat, Dino Melaye again has a right to go to court again under Section 6 of the Constitution to ventilate his grievances.”

Melaye had sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on June 23, and asked the court to nullify the process of his recall by declaring the petition presented to INEC as unlawful.

Two weeks later, on July 6, Justice John Tsoho gave him a temporary respite by making a temporary restraining order on the recall process and directing all parties to maintain status quo.

However, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, in his judgment today has put the process back on track.

Those calling for Melaye’s recall represents 52.3 percent of registered voters in the constituency.

A total of 188,588 – representing 52.3 percent of the 360,098 registered voters in the constituency “signed” the petition for Senator Melaye’s recall.

Only 79,268 people however voted in the election that took Melaye to the Senate.

At the poll, Melaye secured 41,120 votes to defeat Smart Adeyemi who ran on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party but is now a member of the APC. Adeyemi got 38,148 votes in the election.

Melaye had since faulted the petition, saying many of those that signed it were not his constituents.

Cash Haul: Nigeria Is Being Exposed To Unprecedented Ridicule – Falana

As reactions have continued to trail the ownership of funds recovered in an apartment in Ikoyi by the EFCC, Legal Practitioner, Femi Falana (SAN), believes that Nigeria is being exposed to unprecedented ridicule before the committee of nations.

“For me, Nigeria is being exposed to unprecedented ridicule before the committee of nations, if criminal elements, former public officers and departments of government are competing to hide American Dollars, millions of dollars, in private apartments or dump sites, we are in trouble.”

Meanwhile, reacting to the fact that the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) had laid claims to the cash, Mr Falana urged the government to act transparently and consciously on such matters because according to him, any other agency can equally come up and lay claims to discovered funds, saying that they were from covert operations.

“I think the National Intelligence Agency, should not be allowed by the Buhari administration to play on the intelligence of Nigerians – We’ve gone beyond all this petty level of an agency of the government trying to frustrate a serious policy of the government.

“If care is not taken and if this explanation is accepted by the government, you could just forget about the whistle-blowing policy.”

“What stops another agency tomorrow if you call on the EFCC or the ICPC, or even the office of the Attorney General, saying we have stumbled on money somewhere, can you go there? – What stops them from coming on to say, sorry, that is our money from covert operations?”.

Counter Affidavit

He, however, predicted that the Attorney General would likely advise the agency, saying: “If you are sure that you can substantiate your claim to the ownership of the money, go to the Federal High Court and file a counter affidavit”.

Meanwhile, in response to whether or not he feels the EFCC knows the owner of the money, he said: “It goes beyond going to explain to the President, which in fact is an embarrassment – If after two years, the President as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the country, was not made aware of this covert operation, I think we are in trouble”.

Furthermore, in response to speculations as to whether or not the discovery of funds was a cover up, Mr Falana stated: “There is a procedure to know whether it is a cover up or not and that position must be followed by the government.

“I read yesterday that the President has referred the matter to the office of the honorable Attorney General for investigation, I think the matter has left that stage.

“Under the Money Laundering Act, once a suspected proceed of crime has been taken to court as in this case, the Federal High Court on the basis of the application of the EFCC, has made an order of interim forfeiture of that money, it is no longer a matter for the presidency”.

He, however, noted that what is important is the fact that the Presidency is just being briefed now, a situation which he feels is more than meets the eye – “It’s embarrassing,” the lawyer asserted.

Ozekhome Calls For Strategic Fight Against Corruption

Legal Practitioner, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has said that the fight against corruption is something that must be done strategically and in such a way that the image of the country is not being hurt.

He said this while speaking on the recent cash haul in Nigeria by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), adding that “it makes too much of headlines and makes Nigeria look like a country of corruption.

“All the headlines in the last two years, are just about corruption and no country in its right senses would want to come and invest in your country if all they hear every day is corruption, corruption, corruption; because there ought to be sanity.”

Reduced To A Trafalgar Square

According to him, such hauls are eventually turning Nigeria into a subject of ridicule and a laughable show for the rest of the world.

“In fighting corruption, you must do it strategically, in such a way that you do not hurt the image of your country. When you begin to make hauls of money, a lot of these monies, orphaned from septic tanks, from canals, from ware houses, from shops from houses, abandoned, even as in the Osborne case, from flat 7A, in a seven-storey building, where you also have 7B and suddenly, 7A had about 43 million dollars, 23 million Naira and 27 thousand pounds, yet no one owns it; with the key to one of the safes showing clearly; it begins to make us a laughing stock – It becomes ludicrous.

“We are beginning to reduce the entire anti-corruption fight to one of a Trafalgar Square in London or one of a national theatre cinema or one of Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood, joined together – That is not how to fight corruption,” the lawyer asserted.

He made references to the United States, noting that in their fight against corruption, investigations are done secretly and thoroughly until facts are unraveled.

“The equivalent arms in the United States of America from where we borrowed our democracy, the Financial Action Tax Force, the CIA, the FBIA, the FBI; when they are fighting corruption, you hardly hear anything about it – They first investigate very thoroughly, they get the people, they carry out quiet sting operations.

“Many a time, until they have secured prosecution, until they have secured conviction or they are prosecuting, you can never hear the name of any citizen mentioned as regards corruption.”

He also made reference to a phone conversation he had with some foreign friends whom according to him, had asked: “Is your country all about corruption and nothing else, are you people so corrupt that there is nothing else in governance?”.

Mr Ozekhome who has faulted some of the methods through which corruption is being fought, however noted that he is against corruption and does not believe in it because according to him, it “downgrades a country’s existentialism.”