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Why EFCC should tread with caution –Fanwo, Kogi Information Commissioner



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By Sunday Ani

The Commissioner for Information and Communications in Kogi State, Hon. Kingsley Fanwo in this interview on Channels TV, spoke about the allegation of money laundering against the immediate past governor of the state, Yahaya Bello by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), invasion of the residence of the former governor, among other issues.

The EFCC alleged that Governor Usman Ododo was instrumental in whisking ex-Governor Yahaya Bello away, can you respond to that?

It’s unfortunate that Kogi State is being dragged into this once again. The allegation by the EFCC is laughable. Were they sure that the former governor was in his residence? They were not sure that Governor Ododo whisked him away. So, the allegation is false. The governor of the state, Usman Ododo is a law abiding citizen and leader who respects the rule of law at constitutional level. He wouldn’t be involved in that kind of thing. So the accusation is laughable and it’s one of the most frivolous things I’ve heard from the EFCC. I’m saying categorically that the governor didn’t do any such thing. It was another misrepresentation of facts by the EFCC to achieve its aims.

If he was not whisked away by Governor Ododo, did he sleep in that apartment and why was he not in court?

I’m not responsible for knowing where the ex-governor sleeps. I think that his personal aides and family members are responsible for that. But what I’m saying is that the governor didn’t whisk him away. The former governor is not evading arrest. He’s not running away from anyone. One should look at the law court and see what they’re doing. There was a subsisting injunction by a court of competent jurisdiction. A suit was filed by the former governor for the protection of his fundamental human rights, restraining the EFCC from harassing, persecuting and arresting him.

The court granted the interim injunction pending when the substantive suit will be heard and challenged. Immediately that was done, the EFCC lawyers decided to file an appeal against that interim injunction; they cannot claim not to be aware of the interim injunction because you cannot be appealing what you’re not aware of. So, an appeal was filed in the Appeal Court in Abuja against that interim injunction.

The Appeal Court didn’t grant their prayers that the injunction be set aside. They said they would hear the substantive suit and they fixed April 22, which would be on Monday to hear the suit but before that time, the EFCC decided to disobey the law by going to harass and intimidate the former governor. That’s a contempt on its own because you cannot disregard court judgment. The governor was not even aware that anybody wanted to arrest him because he is protected by the law, except we want to say that we have descended to a state of anarchy in this country where the decision of the court doesn’t matter anymore.

Are you aware that the EFCC got an order from the High Court to arrest the former governor?

I read about it but I cannot say categorically that it actually got an order. When you do that kind of a thing, it’s an abuse of court processes. Yesterday (Wednesday), they were at the residence of the former governor. I was told they got there about 9am in the morning and as at 3pm, they were still shopping for an order that would grant them the power to arrest him. So, why go to his house before seeking the constitutional power to be able to arrest him? It was unfortunate.

How were they sure they would be granted? They went ahead, stayed in his house, waiting for the order to be granted by the Federal High Court. As we’re aware that before that, a state High Court that granted the restraining injunction also had a substantive suit and decided in favour of the former governor, restraining the EFCC from harassing, persecuting and arresting him, any member of his family or even the government officials that worked with him. We’ve a subsisting Court order and the conversation should centre on the content by the EFCC.

You cannot be breaking the law and want constitutional reason to be the order of the day. They’ve broken the law and they committed contempt by not respecting a restraining order that stopped them from harassing, intimidating and arresting the former governor. So, that’s the bone of contention right now and the EFCC cannot disregard the law.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said that a federal agency can only be sued in a federal Court, what are your thoughts?

I’m not a SAN but I’m a senior advocate of logic and common sense. The former governor approached the court for the protection of his fundamental human rights, except you want to say that the state High Court doesn’t have the jurisprudence to hear cases that have to do with the fundamental human rights of the state. All the things that they are talking about have to do with the government of Kogi State. All the accusations levelled against him is about when he was governor.

He approached the court to protect his fundamental human rights. Except the SAN wants to say that the state High Court doesn’t have the right to protect the fundamental human rights of the former governor. It’s about the protection of the fundamental rights of the former governor and he has the right to do that.

Going by what has transpired between the EFCC and the state in the past and going by the ridiculous allegations that are still flying around today, you’ll understand that he has the right to seek protection of his fundamental human rights.

At the court, the lawyer was saying that immunity is conferred on the office and not on the residence, he even said further that if need be, the military will be brought in to effect the arrest of Yahaya Bello. A lot of people saw the arrival of Governor Ododo as an obstruction of lawful duty and role of the EFCC, what are your thoughts?

The governor has the right to visit the residence of the former Governor whether the former was there or not. He also has the right to go anywhere he wants to. When you look at the allegations, Nigerians are watching very keenly. I’ve received a lot of calls from Nigerians, home and abroad. Initially, they said that the money was stolen in September 2015, three months before Yahaya Bello was sworn in as executive Governor of Kogi State. I think that when they were told that what they had done would ridicule the country in the comity of nations, they moved the date forward to say that he stole the money in February 2016. Yahaya Bello was sworn in January 2016 before he got his first allocation as executive Governor; EFCC claimed that he had stolen N80 billion.

That is ridiculous. I think we should start interrogating some of these things. What it tells us is that EFCC, laying siege to the residence of the former Governor, is only acting on a script and that script is even badly written. They claimed it was September, it’s no longer September, it’s February. Are they aware that the international community is seriously looking at what we are doing in this country?

Are they aware that a lot of people are reading insinuations into what is going on? Right now we had a governor who was the best in the history of governance in the state, in infrastructure, human power development and so on. This is what he would be rewarded with, victimization? You’re only discouraging good leadership. GYB was a good leader in the state throughout his eight years in office. I think that talking about involving the military will amount to mutiny.

It’s like committing a coup against the government of Kogi State. Who told them that the former governor is in the Government House? They need to do due diligence. That is why they’re losing a lot of cases in court.