MR George Uboh, the petitioner in the case against the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Lamorde, before the Senate committee, on Wednesday, stunned his audience, when he alleged that Lamorde gave properties seized by the commission from the looters to his friends and siblings.
This came as the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, headed by Senator Samuel Anyanwu, on Wednesday, walked out representatives of Lamorde from the venue of its public hearing.
The committee was probing a petition by Mr Uboh, which alleged that Lamorde under-remitted proceeds of properties seized by the commission from persons indicted for financial crimes between 2003 and 2007, when he served as Director of Operations and during his current tenure, amounting to N1 trillion.
Though the probe had run into stormy waters when the leadership of the Senate caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) fired a statement to call for its cessation, claiming that the procedure was against Senate Rules, the chairman of the committee, on Tuesday, said members would go ahead with the probe.
Two representatives of Lamorde, his lawyer, Ugochukwu Osuagwu and the Director of Legal Services of the EFCC, Chile Okoroma, were ordered out of the venue of the hearing by the committee.
Senator Anyanwu said the duo should no longer be at the venue of the sitting since their client, Lamorde, had written the committee to ask for more time to enable him respond to the allegations.
At the hearing, Uboh, in an oral presentation in support of his petition, alleged that a former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, had told him in an interaction that the amount declared by the EFCC was different from what was seized from him by the commission.
According to him, the incumbent governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, was allegedly intimidated by the EFCC to stop the legal process for the recovery of the shortfall of Alamieyeseigha’s loot.
He asked the Senate to invite an auditing firm, Aminu Ibrahim and Co, to appear before it to further clarify his claims, adding that the committee should also compel the EFCC to remit N2.051 trillion to the Federal Government’s coffers.
It asked the committee to, as well, compel Access Bank Plc to submit the complete and unadulterated statements of EFCC from 2004 till date.
According to Uboh, “we have evidences of how Lamorde has been giving out some of the choice seized properties and assets to some of his siblings and we are ready to produce necessary evidences at the appropriate time.”
He insisted that the EFCC had failed to remit the sum of N1 trillion contrary to EFCC Act 2004.
He also said the summary of monies recovered by the commission between March 2003 and March 2013 indicated the sum of N497.385 billion, but noted that the commission did not mention where the amount was paid .
Uboh stated further that the EFCC had, in a letter to the chairman, House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, in 2012, stated that the aggregate recoveries from 2004 to 2011 (eight financial years) was N1.326 trillion, but failed to give further details.
“How can recoveries for eight financial years be more than recoveries for 11 financial years by over N800 billion, when the eight financial years are subsumed in the 11 financial years?
“Why do recoveries for the same year differ on different reports?
“It should be noted that the two documents submitted were prepared under the chairmanship of Lamorde.
“Compare the first two submissions emanating from EFCC. The 2011 submission is over N800 billion higher than the 2013 submission, despite two additional years of naira recoveries in the 2013 submission.
“Based on the records, because EFCC has not been able to account for over N800 billionn, EFCC manipulated the above records and grossly understated recoveries in order to conceal the fraud,” he said.
Uboh further alleged that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) failed to reflect the audited financial statement in 2010, adding that this was because the commission’s accounts had a balance of N3.3 billion, which, he said, was not in the audited account for the year.
Speaking to newsmen outside the venue, Osuagwu, however, said he was protesting the treatment meted to him by the committee, as, according to him, he had the mandate of his client to represent him.
He expressed disappointment on the development, just as Anyanwu read Lamorde’s communication asking for more time.
The EFCC chairman said he would need more time to respond appropriately, since it was awaiting a comprehensice audit report from KPMG.
Osuagwu and Okoroma said it was wrong for the committee to listen to the petitioner in their absence, adding that the documents attached to the petition were not forwarded to the commission.
“The procedure adopted by the committee is flawed with irregularities. They should not have heard the petitioner in our absence and they did not also send the documents attached to the petition to us.
“The committee was aware of our coming because we informed them. The petitioner should have proved his allegation in our presence. All what he was saying are pieces of rubbish and we are highly disappointed in the committee,” they said.
Meanwhile, the Senate Unity Forum, the group loyal to Senator Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday, said the probe of Lamorde was illegal.
The committee, in a statement signed by Senators Ahmad Lawan, George Akume, Abu Ibrahim and Barnabas Gemade, said the probe was also a breach of Senate Rules.
“Senate Unity Forum hereby declares that the probe of chairman of the EFCC, Mr Lamorde, is illegal and a breach of the Senate Standing Rules.
“In standard parliamentary practice, a petition is routed through either a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
“Upon receipt of such petition, the representative will inform the presiding officer of the chamber and, thereafter, present the petition in plenary.
“Upon presentation in plenary, the presiding officer will invite the senator/representative to lay the same petition on the table in the chamber, which automatically becomes a public document.
“Thereafter, the presiding officer will refer the petition to the appropriate committee for consideration, upon submission to the Senate in plenary.
“In this regard, nothing of the sort happened,” the statement read. The group added that the Senate proceeded on recess on August 13 and it was not on record that the petition of Mr George Uboh, accusing Lamorde of diverting over N1 trillion recovered from some corrupt Nigerians, including former Bayelsa State governor, Alamieyeseigha and former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, was presented to the Senate in plenary.
“We stand against this probe. It is illegal and unconstitutional because it did not follow our rules,” the group added.