Akwa Ibom says EFCC graft allegation aimed at maligning government

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*Acting chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu

he Akwa Ibom State government has said that the allegation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that the state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel and some of his officials involved in N1.7 billion fraud is aimed at damaging the reputation of the present leadership in the state.

It would be recalled that the EFCC had charged the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Paul Usoro and four others with alleged fraud involving N1.4 billion.

The EFCC, in a charge marked FHC/418c/18, alleged that Usoro, from Akwa Ibom State converted and laundered the money in connivance with the state governor, M. Udom Emmanuel.

However, the governor was not listed one of the defendants in the as the EFCC indicated that he is “currently constitutionally immune against criminal prosecution.”

The claimed that the N1.4bn allegedly converted and laundered by the defendants belonged to the Akwa Ibom State government.

But in his reaction, the state commissioner for information, Mr. Charles Udoh said the alleged indictment is tainted with political undertone.

“It is another face-saving attempt by 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.

“These antics of the EFCC have continued to attract widespread condemnation from within and outside the country. It is instructive to note that 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.

“Akwa Ibom State government had instituted a legal proceeding against EFCC 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 country authorises only the state House of Assembly and the state auditor-general to pry into the financial dealings of a state government,” said Udoh in a statement.

The commissioner noted that the state, in the past three years, the state had been publishing its annual audited financial statements to underscore its 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,” he added.

Also responding, Usoro denied the allegation of fraud in the suit filed against him by the EFCC at the Federal High Court, Lagos.

Addressing the national executive council meeting of NBA in Abuja, Usoro denied that the EFCC had served any charge on him.

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,” he said.

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