The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has secured the assistance of the United Kingdom authorities in restraining some subsidy scam suspects from operating their accounts in the UK.
The Commission, which also denied being in possession of the properties traced to the convicted former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, added that it was making efforts to have the frozen accounts of the suspects forfeited and repatriated.
The EFCC made these known in two separate statements by its Acting Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwajaren, in Abuja on Wednesday.
In the first statement titled, ‘EFCC set to repatriate funds in foreign accounts,’ Uwajaren quoted the commission’s Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, as saying the embargo on the accounts of the suspects was as a result of the “wonderful relationship” the agency was enjoying from the UK in recent times.
According to Uwajaren, Lamorde told the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr Andrew Pocock, in Abuja, that the UK-sponsored Justice 4 All paid a forensic accountant that assisted in the investigation that nailed those accused in the fuel subsidy fraud.
He said, “We want to use this opportunity to thank your staff for the wonderful relationship we have enjoyed. Recently, we have had support in respect of the fuel subsidy investigation. The UK authorities helped to restrain some funds belonging to the fuel subsidy suspects in the UK.
“We are formalising ways to get the funds forfeited and repatriated . We want the support to continue.”
Lamorde added that the envoy’s visit to the commission meant a lot about the relationship existing between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
He said, “From the inception of the EFCC, if there is any country that has supported the commission the most, it’s the UK. The EFCC has benefited not only in terms of joint tactical and operational activities like collaboration with the Interpol, City of London police, Serious Organised Crime Agency, but also in the area of capacity building.”
The EFCC chairman noted that the UK had supported the commission to the extent that its (EFCC) academy in Karu , Abuja was largely funded by the UK.
Lamorde said, “I also remember that six years ago, we had a joint operation at the Lagos airport with SOCA, the agency funded the purchase of a scanner to check fraudulent mails across the ports.
“Last year, we received support from SOCA for the acquisition of forensic equipment for analysis of mobile phones and other devices.”
He added that six EFCC officers would soon commence a SOCA-sponsored training in London.
Pocock, who was accompanied on the visit by Hooman Nouruzi, Steve Foster and Catherine Weiss, said the interest of the UK in the country (Nigeria) was because “it sees a future in Nigeria.”
“This interest in Nigeria is not only because we are friends of Nigeria, partners of Nigeria but we see a future in this country that is extra ordinary. Nigeria is one of those countries with great potential ”, the High Commissioner said.
He pointed out that corruption was something that impacted negatively on the lives of Nigerians, the government and the economy of the country on a daily basis. He said that with over 30 years of military rule, public infrastructure, tendering, allocation and delivery system had been at their lowest ebbs.
The envoy said that because of corruption in allocation and delivery process, cost of infrastructure in Nigeria was three times higher than it ought to be.
This, according to him, is responsible for the poor service delivery to Nigerians.
“After 30 years, Nigeria has not been able to improve on the 5,000MW generation of electricity supply. You can see the direct consequences of the impact of corruption in the Nigeria economy and the Nigerian state,” he lamented.
Pocock however said that if Nigeria got it right in the power sector privatisation, “the country is going to be on the verge of an industrial revolution because it is going to boost productivity and Gross Domestic Product to at least 40 per cent.”
In the second statement, the EFCC said it ceased to be the custodian of the properties traced to Ibru after a ruling by Justice Dan Abutu (retd) of the Federal High Court, Lagos on October 8, 2010.
The anti-graft agency explained that the clarification became necessary because of media reports alleging that it failed to comply with a court order directing it to disclose the assets recovered from Ibru.
Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos had on February 22, 2013 given the commission a 72-hour ultimatum to make the disclosure following an application by the President of the Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Boniface Okezie.
The application was brought pursuant to Freedom of Information Act 2011.
But the commission said in the statement that it had no problem with individuals and organisations seeking information under the FoI Act, adding that “it is necessary to state that the EFCC has already appealed the said order.
“The appeal was informed by the commission’s belief that the order was unwarranted; just as the request which informed it was misdirected. By the judgment of Justice Dan Abutu delivered on October 8, 2010, the EFCC had ceased to be the custodian of the forfeited Ibru assets,” it said.
Abutu had while sentencing Ibru on October 8, 2010 made pronouncements regarding the fate of her forfeited assets.
Paragraph 3 of page 2 of the court’s order provides thus: “That in addition, all the assets set out in schedule VI of the Settlement Agreement are hereby forfeited to the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria .
The statement added, “By this order, the EFCC ceases to have custody of the assets and so cannot be compelled to disclose what it does not control. This order is public knowledge which is why Justice Idris’ ultimatum came as a surprise. From the order of Justice Abutu, it is very clear where enquiries about the Ibru properties should be directed; certainly not the EFCC.
“It became necessary to make this clarification to erase, finally, all ambiguities regarding sources for information and institutional responsibilities for the Ibru assets. The commission completed its job on the Ibru case the day she was convicted.”