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Akwa Ibom alleges witch-hunt by anti-graft agency, Usoro denies fraud charge

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Charles Udoh, the Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Akwa Ibom State.

APC urges officials to defend selves
The Akwa Ibom State government has alleged witch-hunt by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in connivance with the opposition.

In a statement yesterday, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Charles Udoh, said the
alleged indictment of Governor Udom Emmanuel and other government officials by the EFCC over a purported withdrawal of N1.7 billion from the state coffers was baseless and malicious.

“The alleged indictment is tainted with political undertone to malign the integrity of the current government of Akwa Ibom State. It is another face-saving attempt by the EFCC to justify the several illegalities it has allowed itself to be used to perpetrate against the government and good people of a peaceful state by the opposition party.

“It is instructive to note that the EFCC is regurgitating this line of skewed narrative in the media for the umpteenth time in a flagrant act of impunity against the judicial process.”

He said the state government had instituted a legal proceeding against the commission at the Federal High Court, Uyo, and therefore would remain fervent in its determination not to be dragged into a public discourse on a matter that is patently subjudice.

“The constitution and laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria authorize only the House of Assembly and the auditor-general to pry into the financial dealings of a state government”, the statement said. Udoh, who noted that the state, in the past three years, had been publishing its annual audited financial statements, said it underscored the government’s commitment to transparency, accountability and integrity in governance.

“Copies of the state’s yearly
audited financial statements are available in the public domain. It is mockery of the rule of law for the EFCC to allow itself to degenerate into a tool for character assassination, political mudslinging and witch-hunting by the opposition in Akwa Ibom State,” Udoh added.

Also yesterday, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), one of those accused of complicity in the alleged laundering of funds belonging to the state government, denied the allegation of fraud in the suit filed against him by the EFCC at the Federal High Court, Lagos.

Usoro, while addressing the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Bar in Abuja yesterday said no charges had been served on him by the commission.He frowned at what he described as EFCC’s misconception of the issues about lawyers’ fees while tackling financial crimes.

“It has judicially and historically been acknowledged that issues of fees, as between a lawyer and his client, is a matter of privilege. By questioning lawyers on the legitimate fees that they have earned from clients, the EFCC is breaching the lawyer-client privilege and showing complete disregard for the judgments of the courts in this regard,” the NBA boss said.

But in a swift reaction to the government’s allegation of witch-hunt, the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress [APC] urged the current administration to defend itself and those allegedly indicted by the EFCC instead of making “spurious claims” in the media.

In a statement, the party chairman, Mr. Iniobong Okpoido stated: “We note that the Emmanuel administration has so far earned over a trillion Naira from FAAC, IGR and refunds from the Federal Government. We urge the EFCC to prosecute this case very diligently. The governor should also be prosecuted as soon as he leaves office next year.”

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