As Benin Zonal Office recovers over N300 million, secures 88 Convictions, Forfeiture of 14 Exotic Cars.
The acting Head of the Benin Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ahmed Danmusa (PhD) has expressed frustration at the delay in the prosecution of corruption cases by the anti-graft agency and renewed the call for the establishment of special courts to try such cases. Danmusa spoke in Benin Thursday at a press conference to update the public on the activities of the zonal office in the past one year – June 2019 to June 2020.
Explaining why corruption cases suffer long delays in prosecution, the EFCC boss said the Commission is handicapped once a case gets to court, citing an example of the case involving the former group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Andrew Yakubu.
A special operation conducted by operatives of the EFCC on February 3, 2017 on a building belonging to the former NNPC GMD in Kaduna, yielded the recovery of $9, 772, 800 (Nine million, Seven hundred and Seventy-two Thousand, Eight Hundred United States Dollars) and another sum of£74, 000 (Seventy-four Thousand Pound Sterling) cash.
The huge cash was hidden in a fire proof safe. Yakubu however on Tuesday February 14, 2017, forfeited the recovered monies to the Nigerian government. The Federal High Court in Kano presided over by Justice Zainab Abubakar ordered the forfeiture. The suit filed against him, like similar corruption cases, has however continued to drag on in court.
But Danmusa said “Left to us, we don’t mind, in three months, all the cases will be disposed of but you know we are handicapped; we are very, very handicapped. I can give you an example of this case of Andrew Yakubu. I arrested Andrew Yakubu when I was in Kano; we recovered the money but as I am talking to you, up till today, up till tomorrow, that case is there. They will come today, the next thing, they will say adjourn. It had been adjourned, adjourned, adjourned from one day to another and we can’t do anything. Once a matter is in court, we have no control over the case. It is the court that decides. That is why this call for a special court for anti-corruption cases is very, very necessary. May be that will help to speed up the trials and finish the case in time”.
Reeling out the achievements of the zonal office which covers Edo, Ondo and Delta States, in the period under review, Danmusa disclosed that it had recovered the sum of Three hundred and three million, eight hundred and twenty eight thousand, six hundred and forty-one naira (N303, 828, 641.00) and Seven thousand United States Dollars ($7, 000). According to him, the zonal office also secured the final forfeiture of a four-bedroom bungalow at Ughelli, and a petroleum filling station in Udu, both in Delta State. Similarly, the final forfeiture of 14 exotic cars, 10 laptops, and 28 phones recovered from fraudsters, were also secured.
Danmusa further disclosed that in the course of the year, the Benin Zonal Office received 1,246 petitions out of which 788 were found worthy and approved for investigations. “A total of 132 cases were forwarded to the Nigerian Police Force and other sister agencies as the matters raised in the petitions were not within our jurisdiction. We are glad to inform you that within the period under review, a total of 125 cases were filed in court. And due to our diligent investigation and prosecution, we secured 88 convictions”.
The Commission is however worried about the attitude of many victims who, after recovering their money or property, abandon the case thereby frustrating prosecution of the criminals. Responding to a question, Ahmed Arogha, Head, Legal, Benin Zonal Office, lamented that this is a major concern to the agency. According to him, “One of the challenges we are facing is immediately we make recoveries, the owner of the money will be rushing to claim the money and if we did not give him,he will start pleading, calling that he has a problem and you as a human being, you pity him and you release the money.
“But eventually, after releasing the money, the next thing is, even though a crime has been committed, he now comes with a letter that he’s withdrawing the case; that he’s not interested in pursuing the case.
“And as you know, the problem with the judiciary is that it is not something that will start and in one month, in two months, it will finish. I can take a year, even more than a year. And the legal unit will say it will be a waste of time because if he’s not in court, that too will affect the case because his testimony is the number ones witness in the case; and if he says he’s not willing, where are we going to start? So, this is one of the challenges we are having,. This is one of the areas we are facing problems because people should not only be after getting their own money; those who committed the crime should also be punished”.
Danmusa concluded the briefing with an advisory to the general public to be more vigilant and circumspect “so that they do not fall victim of these misguided elements who are bent on reaping where they did not sow”. He warned against “Any business or investment proposal that looks very attractive with outlandish returns” , cautioning that “it may be a fraudster lurking around”.
He charged media practitioners to expose people who, without any identifiable source of livelihood, continue to live large on other people’s sweat.