In what looks like giving up on the fight against corruption, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Ibrahim Lamorde, yesterday told senators that it is difficult to fight public officers that loot the treasury.
He said the anti-graft agency has been unable to nail some of the former state governors and public officers facing corruption charges because they adopt different tactics and use legal lacuna to delay or evade justice.
Lamorde, who stated these when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, further stated that most of the ex-governors and other public office holders indicted of corruption are so rich and powerful and could deploy some of their looted money to stall their prosecution in court.
Lamorde also told the committee that most of the cases in court have not been concluded, adding that some of the accused, in a bid to stall their prosecution, would come up with a series of frivolous applications and court orders to prevent the commission from going ahead with their trial.
He said, “Unfortunately, these are people who have the resources to drag these cases indefinitely and perpetually. That is why we have established a very strong assets forfeiture unit.
“We have example of a case we charged to court in 2006 and we have gone to the Supreme Court twice on this case alone for just interlocutory applications.
“They will file this, the judge will overrule them, they will go to Court of Appeal and lose there, but they will still go to the Supreme Court. At the Supreme Court, when they lose, they will be asked to go to the trial judge for the case to continue.
“They will come with another application and, certainly for lawyers among us, we know how long it takes for a trial to go to Court of Appeal and get listed, then go to the Supreme Court to get it listed and decided upon. This is the fate of most of the cases we have in court.
“This year alone, we recorded over 200 convictions in various courts across the country but they are mostly advance fee frauds. We have the ‘Yahoo Yahoo’, we have the commercial cases, we have the executives of financial institutions that are involved in currency trafficking. The cases that most people are interested in their conclusion are those before the Supreme Court.”
The chairman said as part of the move to address the matter, the commission established the Assets Forfeiture department that would confiscate the properties of any public office holder arrested by the commission in connection with financial crime in order to reduce their money power.
According to Lamorde, “The truth is, no case has been concluded. I don’t think it is correct to say that whether the charges framed are not properly done or the prosecution is not putting the case properly. Of course, the fact on ground is that no case has been concluded. In fact, it will be working with us to say you have concluded the case, the man is discharged and acquitted but the man is discharged or whatever it is, but what we have is that the trial is on-going.”
The Senate committee directed the EFCC boss to re-appear before it today to explain the unauthorized spending of over N500 million on travels alone in a year. It was gathered that the money in question covered travel allowances for some officials of the commission handling some investigations.