N117Bn: Wike opens 5-point ‘defence’ in court of public opinion

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  • EFCC: Laundering: You withdrew N117Bn without records of what you did with it
  • Wike: You have no powers to ask because of Justice Buba’s judgment of 2007
  • Wike: Your powers are over federal agencies because you are a creation of NASS Act
  • Wike: You have not probed NNPC’s N3Bn, FG N30Trn borrowings, etc
  • Wike: You have not probed US revelations
  • Wike’s ally: N117Bn is far less than workers salaries of N250Bn alone
  • EFCC: But you paid N5.2Bn to Zenith Bank and we have arrested the CEO

By Codratus Godson, Editorial Consultant

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who also described as the force of the opposition in Nigeria in the present dispensation, has opened what may be regarded as a five-point ‘defence’ against the Economic and Fiancial Crimes Commission (EFCC). No, he did not file the defence in the court of law but in the court of public opinion.

Yes, the governor said he had earlier filed a court case against the EFCC when he said he got wind that the anti-graft agency was digging around Rivers State government farms trying to mine information to nail him. He said it must be the filing that must have provoked the EFCC to release damaging information of N117Bn withdrawals.

The Nation (Newspaper) had gone to town with the earthshaoking story of the EFCC having harvest information of withdrawals of at least N117Bn by the Wike administration that the agency said could not be traced. The Commision also said they traced massive withdrawals of about 45 cheques in one day and another 50 cheques in one day. They said they could not trace what the governor did with them.

The Commission was quoted to have found evidence of paying N5.2Bn to Zenith Bank for those transactions and went ahead to hint that they had arrested and quizzed the CEO of the said bank for not alerting them. This may not be the first time the EFCC would be arresting Zenith Bank officials for transactions from the Rivers State government and for issues concerning Wike.

The EFCC was said to be after some government officials especially a particular one in government house to come and explain.

Gov Wike response is already in the public dorman: That no single government official would honour EFCC invitations, that he would not be intimidated, that this is pure political victimizations, etc.

Now, the governor seems to have arranged his defence in logical sequence and has opened his defence in the ‘court of public opinion’ since the one in the court of law may take a very long time to come. He has lined up media attorneys that may prosecute the defence to his satisfaction.

Hie media aide, Simeon Nwakaudu, has released the points of defence in an article he entitled: The EFCC Tragedy. The defence may be meant to serve in any court of law including court of public opinion. The governor may realize that in the run-in of general elections, such allegation may have been dropped to play vital role in the court of public opinion whereas the court of law may not happen before elections.

The 5 points:

1.

Wike: You have no powers to ask of financial details of the state government because of the Justice I. Buba judgment of 2007

The EFCC had also dogged after the then governor, Dr Peter Odili, who ran to the court and secured an order or injunction which many say has turned out to be ‘pepertual’. Even those who taday are Wike detractors and are urging the Commission to fire on had relied on that same ruling when they were in power and when the government was threatened through Wike’s arrest then by the same EFCC in 2008.

Now Wike’s team quotes the 2007 injunction obtained by the Rivers State Government, saying it was clear about the restrictions on the EFCC.

The 2007 Jugdment stated: “An order of injunction restraining the 1st defendant (EFCC) by itself or by its servants or agents or in any manner however from disseminating, publishing or circulating to any government, government agency, the news media, or members of the public or in any manner at all, purported  findings in respect of any investigation or inquiry into the appropriation, disbursing, administering or management of the funds of Rivers State or putting the said report or finding to any use whatsoever is hereby made.”

Wike media said it was because of the above that no official of EFCC signed or owned the statement where allegations were made against the Rivers State Government. “On the powers of EFCC to look into the books of the  Rivers State Government, Justice I. Buba in the March 20, 2007 judgment, had this to say: “I declare that under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the 1st defendant (EFCC)  is not entitled to share in the power of the House of Assembly for Rivers State, vested on it by virtue of section 188 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and accordingly is not entitled to coerce, induce, intimidate or in any manner whatsoever influence the House of Assembly for Rivers State into removing or causing to be removed, or into taking any steps whatsoever towards removing the Governor of Rivers State or the Deputy Governor of Rivers State from office.”

Nwakaudu said: “It is on the strength of this judgment that Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike stated that the EFCC lacks the power to investigate Rivers State Government.  It has no power to investigate any state of the Federal Republic for that matter.”

Not afraid:

Governor Wike noted: “We are not afraid of their probe and they have no power to probe  us. No government official will appear before the EFCC until they set aside the court judgment of Rivers State Government against them in 2007. We cannot be intimidated.

“They filed for leave to appeal the judgment at the Court of Appeal. Until they set aside the judgment, we will  not come. We are aware of their tricks. They should not bother engaging in media trial because it will not work. This is mere political witch-hunt.

“They must obey the of law. We have filed another action against the EFCC.  Because they have been served, they are telling the Press that they have started investigating Rivers State Government. This media war by the EFCC  will not work. We stand on the rule of law”.

Hon. Justice I. N. Buba in his 2007 judgment against EFCC harped on the principles of Separation of Powers thus:

“This case reminds me of what I read on separation of powers that: the small depiction in the Bible; That there are 66 books in the Bible and 66 Chapters in Isaiah; They are clearly divided into sections, Chapters 1 -39 (They are 39 books in the old testament and chapters 40- 66 (They are 27 books in the new testament). The theme also corresponds with the 1st set of chapters addressing law and Government of God and the second group covering grace and salvation of God.”

2.

Wike: Your powers are over federal agencies bc you a creation of the National Assembly, not for states

It must be stated quite clearly that the EFCC is an institution that derives her powers from the National Assembly. The National Assembly legislates for the good governance of the Federal Government.  It considers the budgets of the Federal Government, while the State Assemblies performs similar functions for the respective state governments.

It is on this premise that several Acts of the National Assembly have to be domesticated by State Assemblies to be effective.  Many State Assemblies are yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act passed by the National Assembly, hence the ineffectiveness of the Act. The National Assembly Act setting up the EFCC cannot be any different.

3.

Wike: You have not probed NNPC’s N3Bn, FG N30Trn borrowings, etc

Under the present sharing FAAC formula, about 52.68 per cent is allocated to the federal government from the Federation Account, 26.70 per cent to the 36 states and 20.60 per cent to the 776 local government areas. 

The Guardian, in an Editorial of 27/08/18, stated “According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s total debt has increased by about 90% in almost three years from about N12.6 trillion in December 2015 to about N22.71 trillion as at March 2018. The DMO figure indicates that total public debt prior to the 2018 budget stood at about N21.17 trillion.

“With the N1.95 trillion budget deficit of the 2018 budget and the $475 million loan agreement recently signed with the French government, following the recent visit of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, total debt will stand at about N23.645 trillion with debt service likely to increase beyond the N2 trillion provision in the budget. “

Several petitions have been written against the agencies under the Presidency and Federal Ministries over the years, EFCC has never been courageous to question their  finances and expenses. The reason is obvious, the EFCC is not on ground to fight corruption, but to hold opposing governors hostage.

On what basis is the EFCC interested in the withdrawals of another tier of government.  Should governors now write to the EFCC Chairman to obtain permission of the type of withdrawals to make before embarking on selected projects and programmes?

Is it in line with extant laws for the Federal Government to attempt to manage the expenditures and operations of other tiers of Government through proxy, in this case, the EFCC?

4.

Wike: You have not probed US revelations

The media aid said the US Department of States recently released what he called a damning report on the level of corruption in Nigeria. It even berated the Federal Government for the cosmetic anti-corruption war.

According to the US report, “Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security services.”

Due to the high level of corruption at the Federal Government level over  the last three years, the country’s debt profile has crippled the economy.

The DMO is an agency of the Federal Government.  So is the DSS that indicted the EFCC for corruption.  Nothing has been done to check corruption at the Federal Level.

It for this reason that the APC Federal Government has no single project it initiated and completed in three years.  Instead it basks in the projects of President Jonathan in the rail, aviation and transport sectors. With over N30trilion expended and several loans obtained, the APC Federal Government has nothing  to show for her three years in Government.

Under this failed APC Federal Government, national resources are withdrawn and handed over to APC officials to buy votes. It happened in Ondo, Ekiti, Rivers and the recent bye-elections across the country.

Security Agencies escorted funds in bullion vans in broad daylight  for vote-buying.  Because these acts of criminality favoured the APC, EFCC was never directed to harass anyone.

But the Federal Government prefers to question the withdrawals of the most vibrant state in terms of developmental projects.  This is a country that has states like Kogi, Kaduna, Katsina, Bauchi, Edo, Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Plateau, Kebbi, Zamfara, Osun and Ondo where governance have gone on exile and their governors are perpetually in Abuja to caress the ego of a non-performing Presidency.

For the purpose of emphasis, the Federal Government through the EFCC cannot assume the position of the Rivers State House of Assembly.  It should focus her attention on the 52.68 percent of the country’s monthly revenue that accrues to the Federal Government.

He quotes Wike when he earlier stated; “But the target is not Benue or Akwa Ibom States. The real target is Rivers State. The EFCC as a federal agency has no business with State Funds. That is the responsibility of the State House of Assembly “.

Rivers State Government under the leadership of Governor Wike is transparent in her handling the resources of the state.  This is line with budgetary approvals of the Rivers State House of Assembly  and strict financial discipline.

What should pre-occupy the EFCC is how to trace the $25billion (USD) NNPC contract and  the refusal of the NNPC to remit funds to the  Federation Account. But the EFCC cannot investigate these issues as they  will not advance the chances of the APC Federal Government.

The EFCC has over the years failed to act on the Auditor General of the Federation’s reports on fraud in Federal Agencies.  There are countless reports of the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly indicting all sectors of the Federal Government. There has been no implementation of these reports by EFCC.

It was reported a whooping sum of N4 trillion was, as of the time of preparing the report, unremitted to the Federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

“The total revenue un-remitted as at 1st January 2016 from amounts payable into the Federation Account by NNPC was ₦3.87Trillion.

5.

Wike’s ally: What is N117Bn to N273Bn workers salaries and pensions so far?

Nwakaudu took what he called a cursory glance at the statutory expenses to give insight into how funds were dispensed in Wike’s administration and to arise at his conclusion that there were no loose funds to waste.

He said: Chief Monday Wehere, a Port Harcourt Based Newspaper Publisher captures the financials of Rivers State Government thus:

Chief Wehere said: “The monthly salary bill for civil servants in Rivers State is roughly put at N7b per month. While that of the pensioners is roughly put at N1.4b per month. Wike came to power May 29th 2015 to date is 39 months.

Now, N7b X 39 months is N273billion for civil  servants salaries alone this excludes cost of:

1,    Running and oiling the numerous                    machineries of government;

2.   The numerous projects executed so far.

“If you look at the monthly bill of Pensioners at N1.4b X 39 months you are talking of another N54b to date. Having said this what is the noise EFCC is drumming with N117b. To me this is too childish and unfortunate.”

The EFCC has been robbed of any moral authority left as it has been reset by the present administration to fight the political battles of a failed Government.  In the face of this recklessness, patriotic Nigerians have a duty to resist the lawlessness of these anti-development agents.

Governor Wike is not one to be cowed by the political manipulation of a Federal Government   that cares less about projects delivery and the empowerment of the citizenry, but remains focúsed on political mischief.

Conclusion:

It appears this case may be prosecuted more in the media and court of public opinion so as to cause maximum image damage than the need to prove points beyond reasonable doubt in the law of competent jurisdiction. This is because the EFCC would have to vacate the court judgment at no less than the Federal Appeal Court to enable them act. The Rivers State government would have a right of appeal at the Supreme Court. It is after this that the matter would move forward to execution level. This may be far after the coming elections.

For now, the governor and his team believe that “Rivers people are satisfied with the prudence, accountability and delivery of projects witnessed in the last three years.  It is for these reasons that they are supporting the re-election of Governor Wike, God’s gift to the country at a time like this.”