The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has raised the alarm over attempts by some lawyers and others to claim £2.5 billion from the Federal Government.

The EFCC, which accused the lawyers of attempt to short-change the country, said it will not allow anyone to defraud the country over the controversial claim.

It expressed regrets one of its lead prosecutors, Rotimi Jacob (SAN), was being blackmailed for opposing the lawyers’ demand for £2.5 billion.

The agency’s Acting Head of Media and Publicity, Tony Orilade, said there was no evidence that the lawyers had money to collect from the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The statement reads: “The commission strongly condemns a calculated attempt by a group of 27 lawyers to blackmail one of its lead prosecutors, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), on the contentious £2.5 billion. The EFCC is insisting that Jacobs is a reputable lawyer who has successfully prosecuted several high-profile cases for the EFCC.

“The 27 lawyers had, in a petition addressed to the National Executive of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), alleged that Jacobs was using the EFCC to arrest, harass and intimidate them for winning a monetary suit against the CBN and Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.

“Speaking through one Mr. Onyechi Egwuonwu, the 27 lawyers further alleged that the Union Bank induced the EFCC and Jacobs to file criminal charges against their client, Petro Union Oil, in order to frustrate the execution of the judgment.

“But debunking the claim of the lawyers on Tuesday, the EFCC dismissed the claim, describing it as false and misleading.”

Giving insights into the row over the £2.5 billion, the anti-graft commission added: “For the purpose of clarity, the purported £2.5billion is a fictitious fund Petro Union Oil drew against an account in Barclays Bank (United Kingdom) through a cheque issued in 1994.

“The company made a fraudulent attempt to present the cheque for clearing through Union Bank but enquiries made by Union Bank at Barclays Bank showed that the account against which the cheque was drawn was closed in 1989, five years before the cheque was presented in Lagos for clearing.

“Besides, the company had also been voluntarily dissolved by its promoters in the United Kingdom. The same promoters are the mastermind of Petro Union oil.

“For some inscrutable reasons, Petro Union Oil was able to procure a court judgment for the £2.5billion against the CBN and Union Bank on the basis of an alleged CBN Statement of Account when it is elementary that the CBN, like all Central Banks across the world, does not maintain accounts for private entities.

“Based on the foregoing, the EFCC filed a seven-count charge against Petro Union oil and its directors and trial is ongoing at the Federal High Court.

“It should be pointed out that, the publication alleging intimidation and harassment by the lawyers is a desperate attempt by the shady elements and their promoters to divert attention from their ongoing trial and frustrate the EFCC in its determination to rid the country of corrupt and manipulative elements, including the lawyers and other professionals who lent their names to aid the fraud.

“Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, is a highly respected member of the legal profession who has worked assiduously in conjunction with the EFCC to secure convictions of many notable convicts in the society.

“The EFCC will not be deterred from its avowed goal and is considering filing a complaint against these desperate lawyers with the appropriate organ of the legal profession.”

Practical Considerations to Negotiate an Enforceable Joint Operating Agreement in Civil Law Jurisdictions (Netherlands: Kluwer Law International, 2020) By Professor Damilola S. Olawuyi, LL. B (1st Class), BL (1st Class), LL.M (Calgary), LL.M (Harvard), DPhil (Oxford), Professor of Law and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Nigeria, www.damilolaolawuyi.com. & Professor Eduardo G. Pereira, LL. B (Brazil), LL.M (Aberdeen), PhD (Aberdeen),www.eduardogpereira.com   

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