What informed the sudden filing of criminal charges against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr. Danladi Yakubu Umar after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had cleared him twice of any fraud in writing? Is it an attempt to punish Umar for allegedly refusing to dance to the tune of the EFCC in some recent high-profile cases he presided over?
These are posers being thrown to the Federal Government by a cross-section of Nigerians agitated by the sudden somersault in the ways and manner the EFCC is going about in the discharge of its responsibilities.
Finding by the PRNigeria in this matter shows that while it is true that a former Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service Mr Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo wrote a petition on alleged N10mn bribe against the CCT boss in the cause of his trial on false asset declaration, the EFCC had twice investigated the petition and issued Umar a clean bill of health.
In the petition, the ex-custom boss had alleged that the CCT boss directly demanded a bribe of N10mn from him to do him an alleged favour but that he paid a sum of N1.8mn into the account of one Gambo Abdullahi in 2012. Upon receipt of the petition, the EFCC caused an investigation into the petition and in its report to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) with a Reference No EFCC/EC/SGF/03/56 dated March 5, 2015, personally signed by the then Executive Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde exonerated the CCT boss from the bribery saga.
The EFCC report received by the office of SGF on March 6, 2015 was categorical that “the facts as they are against Justice Umar raised a mere suspicion and will therefore not be sufficient to successfully prosecute for the offence.”
Upon further push from the same petitioner, PRNigeria observed from EFCC’s documents at its disposal, show that in 2016 a fresh investigation was conducted into the same N10mn bribery allegation and the same anti-graft agency in its second report absolved Umar of any wrongdoing and that the bribery allegation against him remain a mere suspicion.
The EFCC’s second report with reference EFCC/P/HRU/688/V30/99 dated April 20, 2016 and submitted to the SGF and signed by the Secretary to the Commission, Emmanuel Adegboyega Aremo, read in part: “Kindly recall our correspondence of March 5 2015 with Reference EFCC/EC/SGF/03/56 with above subject caption. We will like to reiterate the Commission’s position in regard to this matter as earlier communicated to you and state that the allegation levelled against Justice Umar were merely suspicions and consequently insufficient to prosecute the offence.”
Cross section of Nigerian including legal practitioners and civil groups are wondering what informed the sudden change of mind by the EFCC in filing criminal charges against the CCT Chairman in spite of the fact that he (CCT boss) has been clearly cleared of any wrongdoing in the alleged petition against him.
It would be recalled that shortly after the Tribunal discharged and acquitted Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki from the high-profile false asset declaration charges brought against him by the Federal Government, the EFCC apparently unhappy with the decision of the tribunal had indicated in the media that it would charge the CCT boss to court on the bribery saga in which he had been cleared twice by the same EFCC.
In his reaction to the latest EFCC action, a legal practitioner Mr Yunus Abdulsalam said that EFCC would be putting itself on trial in the court of law and in the court of public opinion.
According to the Abuja based legal practitioner, the EFCC would have so many questions to answer in the court than the defendant if the anti-graft agency should try to arraign the CCT boss in the court.
“As a matter of fact, the law does not permit EFCC to blow hot and cold at the same time, the same law does not permit the anti-corruption agency to approbate and reprobate at the same time.
“As an agency saddle with mandate to investigate, EFCC must in the face of the law be consistent in its reports and in the instant case, EFCC cannot be said to be consistent and my candid opinion is that no attempt should be made to arraign the CCT boss in court by EFCC so as not to ridicule itself.”
Also commenting, the Executive Director Global Network for Justice, Elder Akinboyewa Jolayemi faulted the purported charges against the CCT boss, claiming that it is a clear afterthought on the side of EFCC and a ploy to subject the CCT boss to a mere humiliation, probably because he refused to do the hatchet man job for the commission or the power that be.
Jolayemi advised EFCC to put its house in order and should not subject Nigeria as a nation to ridicule and mockery before the international community.
The EFCC had on February 2, brought a two-count charge against the CCT Chairman Danladi Yakubu Umar bordering on alleged receipt of N10m bribe from one Rasheed Owolabi Taiwo in the charge signed by Festus Keyamo as a private prosecuting counsel and one Offem Uket an official of EFCC. Umar was accused of receiving N1.8mn through his Personal Assistant, Gambo Abdullahi for a favour to be afterwards shown to the petitioner who was standing trial for a criminal offence before the tribunal. No date has been fixed for arraignment of the CCT boss at the High Court of FCT, Abuja