ABUJA, NOVEMBER 9, 2016 – The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has sealed the property belonging to Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Dave” Umahi, in Abakaliki and other parts of the state. The anti-graft sealed the Osborn La Palm Hotel, located at Mile 50, Abakaliki and Brass Filling stations along Ogoja and Afikpo roads within the state capital.
The hotel and filling stations belong to the governor. EFCC placed a sign, “EFCC under investigation” with the agency’s eagle’s logo on the affected property.
However, business activities were still going on in the premises when New Telegraph visited yesterday. The hotel security guards were seen at the gate when our correspondent visited yesterday. New Telegraph learnt that EFCC operatives from the Enugu zonal office came to Abakaliki, the state capital, to place the “EFCC under investigation” sign on the entrance gate to the Osborn La Palm.
Although there was no clear reason for the action, the development might not be unconnected with the alleged N400 million arms deal former President Goodluck Jonathan allegedly gave to Umahi during the 2015 presidential election. The funds were allegedly diverted by the governor.
But, a top official of the Ebonyi State government, who did not want to be mentioned, denied the sealing of the governor’s property. He said that the EFCC’s logo on the hotel and filling station has been there for about four weeks. He said that the hotel hosted a wedding reception on Sunday and, as such, has not been under lock and key.
He said: “Yes, there is an EFCC sticker on the properties. It is just an underinvestigation sticker. It is not as if the properties were sealed. They are still functioning. The truth is that they have been there for long. There is nothing new there.” The EFCC had, in August, arrested three persons including the governor’s brother, Austin Umahi, and some people over a N400 million slush fund linked to the 2015 presidential campaign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The suspects, all staff of Brass Engineering & Construction Nigeria Limited and Osborn La-Palm Royal Resort owned by the governor, were arrested following their refusal to honour invitations by the EFCC for questioning in an ongoing investigation involving both companies.
While the younger Umahi doubles as the chairman of both companies, Chinyere Egwuche and Marbel Dikibo (the other two persons) are also signatories to the companies’ accounts. Investigations by the EFCC revealed that the N400 million was released by the Director of Finance, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Nenadi Usman, to the Ebonyi State chapter of the PDP for the 2015 presidential election.
The said funds were moved from a bank in Abakaliki on March 27, 2015, to another bank, where one Maxwell Umahi further moved N100 million and N300 million respectively into the accounts of Brass Engineering & Construction Nigeria Limited and Osborn La-Palm Royal Resort respectively. One of the suspects, Egwuche, allegedly with drew the N300 million paid into the account of Osborn La-Palm which, according to her, was used to finance further the construction of Osborn La-Palm Hotels in Abakaliki, Uburu and Port Harcourt, while the N100 million paid into the account of Brass Engineering and Construction Nigeria Limited was transferred to a certain David Umahi Faith Foundation.
Meanwhile, the EFCC has made substantial breakthrough in its ongoing investigation of some judges of the Federal High Court. New Telegraph’s investigation revealed that operatives of the anti-graft agency have established “overwhelming” evidence against the judges, to warrant their trials in court. It was learnt that most of the judges under probe could not explain the huge lodgements found in their accounts. A highly placed source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was mind-boggling that “one of the judges was found to (allegedly) own property in choice areas in Lagos and overseas.”
According to the source, “the commission will soon confront the National Judicial Commission (NJC) with overwhelming proof of evidence, to cause their suspension.”
He added that: “The EFCC is a thorough and professional anti-corruption agency, that recognises the rule of law, procedures and due process. “When the commission arraigns those with whom prima facie cases have been established, the pub lic will get to appreciate the efforts and diligence put in the investigation process.”
The EFCC is investigating Justices Rita Ofili- Ajumogobia, Mohammed Nasir Yunusa, Hyeladzira Ajiya Nganjiwa, Musa Haruna Kurya, Agbadu James Fishim and Justice Uwani Abba Aji. At different times, the judicial officers had appeared at the Lagos zonal office of the anti-graft agency, for interrogation. Some senior lawyers, who were alleged to have induced judges, have either been arraigned, or quizzed.
For instance, Justices Yunusa and Nganjiwa are being investigated over allegations that they were offered bribes by Mr. Rickey Tarfa, and Dr. Joseph Nwobike, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs). While Tarfa was arraigned on a 27-count charge bordering on alleged transfer of N1.5 million to Justice Nganjiwa, Nwobike is facing a fivecount charge before Justice Raliat Adebiyi of the Lagos High Court.
In another development, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State yesterday visited a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, in EFCC’s custody in Abuja. A statement by the Special Assistant on Media to Fani-Kayode, Mr. Jude Ndukwe, said Fayose arrived the headquarters of the EFCC at 2:15p.m., and was received by a team of operatives.
The governor was said to have encouraged the former Director of the Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign Organisation, to remain steadfast. “The governor of Ekiti State, Peter Ayodele Fayose, joined the ever growing list of dignitaries paying solidarity visits to the detained former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.
“The governor visited Fani-Kayode in EFCC custody on Tuesday afternoon and spent quite some time encouraging him. He arrived the commission about 2:15p.m. and was received by a team of operatives led by one Mr. Madaki. “He later departed the commission at 4:30p.m.,” Ndukwe said. Barring any change in plan, the EFCC will arraign Fani-Kayode today on a fresh charge of alleged corruption.