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EFCC, Rivers govt clash over alleged N117bn fraud

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EFCC probes N117bn cash withdrawal in 3 years
No Rivers official’ll appear before the commission—Wike 

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor & Egufe Yafugborhi
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has commenced probe into the over-the-counter withdrawal of N117 billion by Rivers State Government House in the last three years.

Magu and Wike

But Rivers State government in a swift reaction, said non of its official would appear before the anti-graft agency, saying the allegation was politcally motivated.

The anti-graft agency is to summon four key accounting staff in the Rivers State Government House for interrogation over the shocking discovery.

Among those slated for questioning are a cashier and director in the office of the governor.

A top operative of the EFCC confirmed to Vanguard last night:  “In one fell swoop and precisely on June 8, 2015, a total of 45 different cheques in the amount of N10 million each amounting to N450 million were issued and cashed over the counter in the name of one person.

“The following day, that is June 9, 2015, 50 different cheques amounting to N500 million were issued in the name of another person and withdrawn over the counter of the same bank in Port Harcourt and we believe strongly that this money was laundered.”

Attempts to speak with Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, were unsuccessful, as he did not pick calls placed to his known phone lines.

Also, repeated efforts to speak with the EFCC’s spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, on the matter proved abortive but a top-ranking official of the agency confirmed the commencement of probe into the illicit transactions.

It was not clear last night whether the court would allow the EFCC to proceed with the latest round of probe of the transactions involving the Rivers State government since there is a standing perpetual injunction from the Federal High Court restraining the agency from dabbling into the financial operations of the state government.

No Rivers official’ll appear before the commission—Wike

Reacting  to EFCC allegations last night, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State declared that  no official of the state government would appear before EFCC over its politically-motivated investigations until the commission approaches the Court of Appeal to set aside the 2007 judgment barring the commission from investigating the state.

In a statement, yesterday, Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, quoted Governor Wike as describing te alleged action of the EFCC as a “political witch-hunt.”

The governor declared: “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. “

Governor Wike said that the media trial by the EFCC would amount to nothing, pointing out that  Rivers State government was aware of the move before it even started.

He said: “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.”

It will be recalled that while Speaking on the freezing of Akwa Ibom State and Benue State accounts recently  at Government House Port Harcourt , Governor Wike had said that the ultimate target of the Federal Government was Rivers State, where they have already detailed the EFCC to carry out very unconstitutional activities.

Wike had said: “There is no worse impunity than for the EFCC to shutdown  a tier of government through the freezing of the accounts of two state governments.  An agency of federal government has frozen the accounts of Akwa Ibom  and Benue State governments . This is the worst coup against the constitution and the law-abiding people of those states.

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