EFCC to probe Nigerians with ill-gotten wealth
A NEW vista in the war against corruption has been opened by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which has set up a team to investigate property and assets whose means of acquisition cannot be explained by their owners.
The commission said the new offensive is part of its efforts to stem the tide of money laundering and corruption in the country.
Its Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, who received the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Smart Adeyemi yesterday in Abuja, said: “While we expect the passage of the Assets Forfeiture Bill by the National Assembly, we have decided to make use of Section 7 of the EFCC Establishment Act to go for the assets of the corrupt. As a result, I have just constituted a team that will henceforth go out to identify property, which means of acquisition cannot be explained by their owners. We promise they will forfeit them to government.”
And to unmask Nigerians involved in the $17.5 million bribe by Siemens AG, the commission said it would soon summon officials of the conglomerate for questioning.
Waziri said the EFCC would demand compensatory damages from Siemens even as she gave assurance that all those indicted in the scam would be prosecuted.
Adeyemi also reiterated his call for a death penalty or life imprisonment for those found guilty of financial crimes or corruption.
“All over the land, you see our girls going into prostitution and our youths wallowing in joblessness despite our abundant resources. This is because there are many people in government who are not supposed to be there. They loot public treasury with impunity and allow the generality of the people to suffer,” Adeyemi added.
In a statement, EFCC spokesman, Mr. Femi Babafemi, explained that Section 7 (1) (b) of EFCC Act gives the agency power to “cause investigation to be conducted into properties of any person if it appears to the Commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income.”
Waziri said the level of corruption in Nigeria coupled with the urgent need to develop the nation deserves that drastic actions be taken to address the menace.
“This is why it is expedient for the National Assembly to reconsider and pass our Assets Forfeiture Bill, the Freedom of Information Bill and other pending bills that will aid the fight against corruption in our country. Fighting corruption needs drastic actions and here at EFCC, we have been trying to do something,” she said.
The anti-graft boss bemoaned situations where multi-national firms encourage and deepen corruption in Nigeria through bribes in their bid to win huge contracts in the country.
“Nigeria has suffered a lot in the hands of some of these conglomerates who use the excuse that Nigeria is a corrupt country to perpetuate same by offering bribes before contracts are awarded. Both the givers and receivers are guilty and must answer charges,” she said.
Waziri hinted that the scope of investigations into the Siemens bribery scam is being expanded as some past managing directors of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), would soon be invited for questioning.
Adeyemi said his visit was to commend Waziri for her commitment to the onerous task of fighting corruption and to also exchange views with the commission on issues bordering on good governance and the war against graft.
“I want to say with all sense of responsibility as I have nothing to benefit from EFCC, that the commission under Farida Waziri is more than ever before, a better anti-corruption agency.”
He further said the Senate was disturbed by the level of corruption in the country, adding that he is encouraged by steps taken by the EFCC to check the menace. “As our nation is going to be 50 years as an independent nation, it is time to take stock. By October 1, 2010, Nigeria shall be 50 years; you should count yourself privileged that you are part of history to make a turning point for Nigeria,” he admonished the EFCC boss.
According to Waziri, “we are going to call Siemens AG and Siemens Nigeria. We are also going to call the MDs of NITEL and PHCN. If somebody has made a self-confession, we endorse it and use it but where it is denied, you need documentary evidence, you need the witnesses of two. So, it is difficult but we are not going to leave it. You know they went to other countries to pay fines, we need compensation too at the end of the day. This cannot continue, our monies are taken away, the contracts are shoddily executed and our image is tarnished. So, we need to teach those companies a lesson. Can they try that in the United Kingdom (UK)? But here, they want to bribe and take away everything.”
Waziri said the commission would go after others like Halliburton, Wilbros and Dembla.
“The most annoying part is that these bribes that are given to Nigerians, the monies are not lost. They now add it up to the contracts and the contracts are inflated. At the end, Nigeria is losing a lot of funds. Nigeria is also losing credibility in the comity of nations. This is what we are going to fight starting with this case that we are doing. We are inviting Siemens to also tell us what they know about this scam. Don’t forget that at the beginning of the case, most of the people who offered the bribes were whisked out of the country so that we would not be able to satisfactorily prosecute them. We are on top of the job.”
She said the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, is working to obtain the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the Munich court judgment to fast track the case.
“There are four ministers involved. One of them is ill. We had his statement previously, so, we invited the two others. The MLAT request has gone to the AG and he is working very hard to get the CTC from Munich,” she said.
On the proposed extradition of former Delta State governor, James Ibori, she said: “I spoke to our men in Dubai and MET Police. They have not filed anything yet but the MET Police are trying to see if they would extradite him to England or he would be tried in Dubai.”