Reps put EFCC in the spotlight over seized assets

By The Citizen

THE House of Representatives is set to verify the status of all assets seized and recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) since the inception of the anti-graft agency.

House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, who spoke while opening a three-day public investigative hearing organised by the Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, decried the secrecy surrounding seized assets of accused and convicted persons in custody of the anti-corruption agency.

The House is also poised to trace the whereabouts of $170 million transferred to an unidentified account. The cash was discovered in an unnamed document and cannot be linked to the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF).

The committee has given pioneer EFCC Chairman Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and his successor Mrs Farida Waziri till tomorrow to honour an invitation to the committee, noting that Section 89 of the Constitution empowered the Committee to carry out such duty.

Represented by the Deputy House Leader, Leo Ogor, the Speaker said:'I have learnt that between 2003 and now, the EFCC has confiscated over 200 mansions and large sums of money through 46 forfeiture court orders.

'These landed property, monies, and business concerns which were estimated to be worth in excess of two trillion naira, included bank accounts, shares in blue chip companies, exotic vehicles, fuel stations, holdings, warehouses and shopping malls among others.

'However, there have been many reported cases of vandalism, improper storage, abandonment and waste. We have reports that some of these properties have fallen into disrepair and that some cannot even be accounted for.

'We cannot allow a situation whereby over 400 cars seized through the diligence of the EFCC for instance continue to rot away.

'We have a vicarious responsibility to ensure that assets seized through forfeiture court orders are prudently and carefully manage to avoid waste and to ensure they are maximally disposed of for the benefit of the public.

'It is not enough to just seize assets, we need to ensure that they are quickly utilised as part of the restitution for the original crime'.

The Committee was, however, shocked that the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) however disclosed that from the 70 cases it transferred to the EFCC between 2006 to date, only three have been concluded.

The Committee was also told that N1, 841, 225, 239 was transferred to the EFCC in different currencies.

NDLEA Chairman Ahmadu Giade told the Committee that once cases were transferred to the EFCC, it is up to it to do whatever it wants with them. He said his agency does not follow up on the cases or the movement of the monies transferred.

He gave the breakdown as N27, 822, 410; N441, 928, 968 ($2, 832, 878) and N1, 114, 489, 896 ($7, 144, 166 fake dollars); N4, 872, 000 (£20, 300) and N225, 236, 880 (£938, 487 fake); N2, 309, 530 (€11, 266) and N1, 312, 000 (€6, 400 fake); N28, 125, 155 (CFA93, 750, 517) and N400 (5 Cedis).

However, Mr Kunle Lasisi, who works for Aminu & Ibrahim and Co, an audit firm commissioned to audit the appropriated expenditure of the anti-corruption agency said the agency was not found wanting in the funding of its operational expenditures.

The Committee wanted to know if the agency funded its operations from seized assets and if certain seized assets accounts were hidden from the auditor in the course of its activities.

Lasisi said the scope of his firm's duties, as permitted by the constitution would not allow him to audit the agency beyond accounts operated solely on the agency's appropriated expenditure.

On the missing $170 million, Lasisi insisted that they worked within the scope of their mandate.

'There is no way I will know anything about such money because our scope has to do with how monies appropriated were utilised, our job is to find out if monies were taken from other sources to fund their operations.

'As long as there was no record to that effect, there is no way we are going to audit such account. We only got to know about seized asset accounts and mentioned it because we requested for bank statements from the three banks that have the agency's appropriated funds account,' Lasisi said.