A former director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS), Ita Ekpeyong has been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The action came barely 24 hours after Acting President Yemi Osinbajo sacked the agency’s former boss, Lawal Daura, over Tuesday’s “unauthorised” siege on the National Assembly complex.
Daura prevented the EFCC from arresting Ekpeyong in November last year in a standoff that almost resulted in a shootout between both organisations.
EFCC had accused Ekpeyong of mismanaging funds meant for arms procurement.
“We arrested him for the same reason that failed the other time because the coast is very clear for us now. The blockage has been removed,” a source close to the commission told Hope For Nigeria.
The operatives swooped on his residence at 46, Maman Nasir Street, Asokoro, Abuja, and carried out a search that lasted hours.
Osinbajo reportedly gave the nod for the operation.
But like the widely condemned DSS invasion of the legislative chambers, the EFCC has come under criticism, accused of being partisan.
Last week, it froze accounts of the Benue State government, alleging funds for security had been mismanaged.
The timing, however, appeared suspect, coming on the heels of Governor Samuel Ortom’s defection from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Critics also noted that it came after APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, threatened the governor could be investigated, having failed to prevent the defection.
“I am the only governor in Nigeria whose security vote is being investigated by the EFCC. If the EFCC wanted a genuine investigation of security vote spending, they should have started from the presidency right across the 36 states. With the enormous security challenges in the state, it is surprising that anyone would expect me to do nothing but keep the security vote in the safe. The investigation is a clear case of persecution. I have not misappropriated, diverted or stolen any money. I have nothing to hide,” Ortom told reporters.
The EFCC, however, unfroze the accounts yesterday after what an insider described as intervention by Osinbajo.
“The acting president held a closed-door meeting with the chairman of the commission for two days alongside the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, where he cautioned both of them harshly.
“I believe that the action of the commission was the outcome of the meeting between the chairman of the commission and the acting president. Also, the acting president insisted that the commission must allow politicians to play their politics and do their work independently,” the source said.
But while the commission might have been cautioned, some observers insist it could be up to more mischief and must therefore be checked.
Governor Nyesom Wike specifically raised the alarm that the EFCC has marked his Rivers State for a re-enactment of the Benue freeze. According to him, “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.”
He said that a former governor, Peter Odili, obtained a court judgment, which declared that the agency has no constitutional power to investigate state funds, and that several years after the verdict, the EFCC has not vacated the order in a superior court.
“There is no worse impunity than for the EFCC to shutdown a tier of government through the freezing of accounts. This is the worst coup against the constitution and the law-abiding people of those states,” he said.
He contended that the leadership of the EFCC and the police deserve sanctions. “If you are sacking Daura for a coup at the national assembly, what will you do with a man who overthrew two state governments through two separate coups?
“The sack is mere internal politics. The inspector general of police has done worse. He invaded the Benue State house of assembly. He also invaded the Rivers State high court complex. Yet, no action has been taken against him,” Wike said.
Calling for the outright sack of the EFCC boss, Benue Liberation Front (BLF), in a statement by its coordinator, Yunum Tyosor, said: “It is now very glaring that the EFCC has become an attack dog of the APC-led government and a persecutor of perceived political opponents. Magu has clearly taken sides and compromised his office in the discharge of his duty.”
Also, some political parties alleged a plot by the presidency and the APC to freeze the bank accounts of Senate President Bukola Saraki, the upper chamber of the national assembly and some PDP governors.
The chairman of the National Unity Party, Perry Opara, made the claim when he led a delegation of 45 political parties on a solidarity visit to Saraki in Abuja.
“Nigeria is gradually turning into a failed state and all the institutions of state have been compromised and desecrated. This is the time to rise in defence of democratic values and nationhood. We cannot sit by and watch our country slide into the Hobbesian state of anarchy, where life has become short, brutish and lawless,” he said.
Responding, Saraki reiterated the commitment of the legislature to protecting the nation’s democracy.
The acting DSS director-general, Matthew Seiyefa, meanwhile, disclosed that the organisation was reviewing all cases of alleged unlawful detentions and human rights abuses under its purview.
He stated this at his maiden interaction with journalists in Abuja yesterday.
“We will not tolerate the abuse of freedom of Nigerians and we will not be intimidated or cowed, as we will protect our mandate,” he said.
On the continued detention of a former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, Seiyefa said it was early to make any definite decision, as he was still studying the cases before him.
“The issue of having a spokesperson to respond to media inquiries is under active consideration,” he added.