Indications emerged yesterday that the perpetual injunction, obtained by the former Rivers State Governor, Dr. Peter Odili, secured from a Federal High Court against his prosecution over alleged diversion of over N100 billion during his eight-year tenure, might amount to a pyrrhic victory.
Findings by Vanguard revealed that contrary to report of discontinuation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is pressing ahead with the case, with a view to bringing the former governor to book.
A source said yesterday that the EFCC was more determined to get the perpetual injunction against the commission lifted so that Odili and his officials could be made to account for the public funds which they allegedly diverted during their stay in office.
It will be recalled that based on petitions from individuals and groups in Rivers State, the EFCC had carried out investigations into the management of Rivers State resources in the eight years that Odili held sway and released a verdict towards the end of 2006, detailing how the state’s funds amounting to over N100 billion were diverted.
The commission’s finding highlighted cases of large-scale fraud, conspiracy, conversion of public funds, foreign exchange malpractice, money laundering, stealing and abuse of oath of office against the former governor and some of his officials.
But in a bid to scuttle the EFCC’s legal action, the former governor approached Justice Ibrahim Buba, then of the Port Harcourt Federal High Court and secured a perpetual injunction restraining the commission or its agents from taking any action against Odili.
Since then, several attempts by the commission to vacate the order have however lingered from 2008 till date, prompting many to conclude that with ‘orders from above’, the EFCC has been forced to abandon the matter. But the commission said it was not relenting in getting the order quashed for prosecution to begin in earnest.
A source said, “It is not true that EFCC has abandoned the case against Odili or any of the former governors. We are just following the normal court process and we will not shy away from it.
“In fact, that particular case came up in March this year at the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt and we are waiting for the next adjourned date to continue with our presentation.
“It is not that type of a case that can be abandoned so as not to give the impression that corruption is being promoted.
“Do not forget that it was the former governor who rushed to court to stop EFCC from prosecuting him after preliminary findings had proved that he and some of his officials should be tried for diversion of money.”
“So, it is not even correct to suggest that EFCC has abandoned a case it did not initiate. What we did was to appeal against the perpetual injunction restraining us from prosecuting the former governor or even investigating his tenure.
Meanwhile, the EFCC has said its recent withdrawal of charges against four of the subsidy fraud suspects does not amount to discharge and acquittal.
Rather, the commission said it withdrew the cases based on fresh evidence with a view to consolidating and preferring new charges against the affected firms.
According to EFCC Spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, “the withdrawal of the charges against Pinnacle Oil and Gas Plc and others was deliberate.
“In the face of fresh evidence, the commission felt the need to firm up the charges, fully convinced that it is better to consolidate the charges ahead of formal arraignment than to start making amendments thereafter,” he explained.