Friday, November 23, 2012

Why EFCC could only convict Yahoo boys--Larmorde

Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, Thursday , told the Senate that the commission finds it difficult to convict those it termed high profilethieves who have looted the nation’s wealth because they have huge sums of money and resources to delay court processes. 

The EFCC boss who noted that the commission recorded no less than 200 convictions this year alone, however, admitted that most of the convicts were advance fee fraudsters.

Critics had often lambasted the EFCC boss for going after petty criminals while the big crooks walk free. Speaking when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes to defend the 2013 budget, Lamorde appeared to prove the critics right when he said EFCC finds it difficult to convict high profile politicians that have looted the nation’s wealth because they have huge sums of money at their disposal to frustrate court processes.
“This year alone we recorded over two hundred convictions in various courts across the country but they are mostly advance fee fraud, 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 its conclusion are those before the Supreme Court.
The anti-graft boss who expressed dismay with the development, said  it was against this backdrop that the commission established a strong assets forfeiture unit that would seize their property leaving those arrested with no money to spend.

Lamorde 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.

“The first thing we do now is that we try to recover and confiscate the assets of individuals that we are investigating because it is only when you deprive them of their resources that you will be able to force them to stand trial. Once they have access to their resources and assets, they will use it to continue to delay and drag some of these trials.”

“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 wrong for us 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."

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Victor Lar, Plateau South having x-rayed the 2013 budget and what has been spent this year, however queried why the EFCC had to spend N500 million to prosecute cases, just as Lamorde was asked to go and return today with receipts of how the money was spent.

“We have example of a case we charged to court in 2006", Lamorde said; "for this very case, we have gone to the Supreme Court twice on 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 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 get it listed and decided upon. This is the fate of most of the cases we have in court."

A research conducted by several months ago shows that since it was established, EFCC has made approximately 1500 arrests. About 400 cases went to court within 16 months after the date of arrest while 600 of the cases went to the court more than 2 years after arrest. 

Out of the 1000 cases that made it to court, EFCC lost 860 cases. Of the 140 cases that could be said to have been won, there is no single important politician apart from Bode George, the former Governor of Bayelsa state, and Lucky Igbinedion who pleaded guilty after immense political pressure and sentenced only to time already served, and Tafa Balogun who met the same fate. 

Outside politicians, only Mrs. Ibru and one or two others were convicted, all on plea bargains that were actually a victory for the accused.

Our research also shows that the rest of the convictions were minor cases involving individuals who could not afford to hire lawyers. Of the 860 cases that were lost, 90% of them were lost either because EFCC had no evidence to prosecute or they were civil disputes which EFCC officials incompetently took to criminal courts. Of the entire 1,500 arrests, about 500 cases are still caught up in administrative stages in EFCC.

Dr Erastus Akingbola N27 billion; Chief Osa Osunde N55 billionCharles Silva Opuala N2.4 billion; Francis Okokuro N2.4 billion; Francis Atuche N80 billion; Okey Nwosu N95.1 Billion; Sebastian Adigwe N277.3 Billion; Raymond Obieri N131.8 Billion; Dr Bartholomew N187.1 Billion; Cecilia Ibru N160.2 Billion; Tom Iseghohi N15 Billion; Dr Ransome Owan N1.5 Billion; Rasheed Ladoja N6 Billion; Bode George N100 Billion; Babalola Borishade N5.6 Billion; Nyeson Wike N4.670 Billion; Roland Iyayi N5.6 Billion; Chimaroke Nnamani N5.3 Billion; Lucky Igbinedion N4.3 Billion; James Ibori N9.2 Billion; Orji Uzor Kalu N5 Billion; Ayo Fayose N1.2 Billion; Saminu Turaki N36 Billion; Jolly Nyame N1.3 billion; Michael Botmang N1.5 Billion; Hamman Bello Hammed N2.5 Billion.

Meanwhile Lamorde also told “It is important to note that for 2013, we requested for N6,514,525,127 for personnel cost and only N5,804,294,192 was appropriated by the Budget office of the federation leaving a short fall of N710,230,935 due to this short fall, the commission would not be able to meet its personnel cost fully in 2013.”

According to him, 85 percent of the commission’s allocation had been released by the Ministry of Finance, just as he stressed that only 1.5billion representing 15 percent of the appropriation was still outstanding and may be released before the end of the year. Only 57 percent of capital projects was realized in the year 2012, personnel cost 97.68 percent, 92.02 percent overhead cost.”

Why EFCC could only convict yahoo yahoo boys - Lamorde

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