Rise And Rise Of Billion-Naira Arrests

When on January 27 the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) announced the recovery of $10.5m from looters, many Nigerians felt it was modest, compared to the number of arrests, forfeitures and freeze orders in this regime’s ongoing anti-graft war. There are ongoing investigations or trial against a number of former holders of high-profile government officials in a variety of sectors, which has seen a spike in arrests related to billion-naira corruption cases.

Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed in June, 2016 announced the recovery of cash and assets totaling N3.4 trillion, while more billions are expected from foreign jurisdictions.

The National Prosecution Coordination Committee (NPCC) was inaugurated on May 26, 2006 by Vice President of Yemi Osinbajo to coordinate the activities of the various anti-graft agencies, like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and others.

The EFCC between September 2015 and 2016, filed four different criminal cases against Dasuki before a Federal High Court in Abuja and FCT High Court over alleged diversion of the sum of $2.1 billion.

On January 6, 2016, a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the interim forfeiture of the sum of $153m allegedly siphoned by former Minister of Petroleum Diezani from the NNPC and stashed in three banks: Sterling Bank PLC, First Bank PLC and Access Bank PLC.

In September 2016, the EFCC applied for an order of a Federal High Court in Lagos for the forfeiture of the sum of $15m in the Skye Bank PLC account of former First Lady, Patience Jonathan.

Some senior military officers have been indicted in arms deals are facing the judicial process leading to return of billions of naira in cash and asset.  Some of the officers presently undergoing trial are:  Former Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh; former Air Chiefs, AVM Mohammed Dikko Umar and AVM Adesola Amosu. Other officers are: AVM T. Omenyi (MD, NAF Holdings); AVM R.A. Ojuawo (Air Force Tactical Air Command, Makurdi); Col N. Ashinze (Special Military Assistant to former NSA Sambo Dasuki).

The trial of some former state governors such as: Joshua Dariye (Plateau); Jolly Nyame (Taraba); Murtala Nyako and Umar Fintiri (Adamawa); Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia); Ikedi Ohakim (Imo); Sule Lamido (Jigawa) have received added vigour, with a likelihood that some of them could be convicted.

The former governorship candidate of PDP in Osun State, Senator Iyiola Omisore was arrested in Abuja over N1.3 bn, and his Lagos State counterpart Musliu Obanikoro is wanted in connection with the N2bn Ekiti State election campaign fund for which an aide to Governor Ayo Fayose, Biodun Agbele, is already facing trial. Fayose had to file a court action to unfreeze his bank account after it was frozen by the EFCC.

Following the raid on the homes of judges across the country on October 8, 2016 by the Department of State Services (DSS), Supreme Court judge, Sylvester Ngwuta and Federal High Court judges, Adeniyi Ademola and Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia are currently facing trial for alleged money laundering. Some senior lawyers indicted alongside the judges, such as Godwin Obla (SAN) and Joe Agi (SAN) have also been arraigned with alleged corruption. Earlier, senior lawyers: Rickey Tafa and Joseph Nwobike were arraigned for alleged bribery of judges. The EFCC also obtained an interim forfeiture order against N75m in the bank account of Constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said to have been paid by Gov Fayose.

Last Thursday, the sum of $9.8m (about N3bn) was recovered from a Kaduna building owned by former Group managing Director of NNPC, Andrew Yakubu. A Kano Federal High Court on Monday granted interim forfeiture order for the amount.

An Abuja-based lawyer and lecturer, Barr Daniel Bwala described the anti-corruption war as very laudable, but raises concerns over the adherence to rules and due process in the fight. He said the recoveries will aid the country’s economy.

A biting economic recession is still being felt by Nigerians. But the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions, Barr Okoi Obono Obla, said the recoveries are not all cash, explaining that some are jewellery, property, or in frozen accounts. He said everything must be remitted into the consolidated revenue fund, and appropriated by the National Assembly.

Obla added that President Buhari has announced that part of the 2017 budget will be funded with the recovered funds. “Nigerians should be patient,” he added.

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