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Okonjo-Iweala refutes media report on her alleged probe by EFCC

By The Rainbow
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The former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said that media reports alleging that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had placed him under investigation were misleading.

The former minister, who was prior to her latest ministerial appointment, was a Managing Director at the World Bank, said that the headlines of many media reports on the appearance of thre EFCC boss Ibrahim MAgu before a House of Representatives committee

Okonjo Iweala in a statement by her media adviser,  Paul Nwabuikwu,  on Tuesday, said that most of the stories that came out of that event, especially the headlings were overtly misleading.

Many media reports had headlines like “We'll probe Okonjo-Iweala, Diezani soon, says EFCC”; “EFCC 'investigating' Okonjo- Iweala, Diezani, Aluko”; “EFCC probes Okonjo-Iweala, Allison-Madueke, oil sector” etc.

The statement rreads,  “We want to clarify that some of the media reports alleging that the EFCC is investigating former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, are misleading and untrue. This is clear from eye witness accounts of the Budget 2016 presentation by the EFCC at the House of Representatives and gaps in the reported stories.

“The headlines are a misrepresentation of what the EFCC Chairman actually said during the event. While the headlines claimed that the EFCC Chairman, in response to a question by an APC, member Hon Razak Atunwa, stated that Dr Okonjo-Iweala is under investigation, the actual words quoted in the same reports told a very different story.' His words: ‘Very soon we will go into the petroleum industry. Such investigation requires that we have to build capacity, we have to bring in experts to enable us tackle what we are doing properly and the investigation must be conducted properly. We have internal lawyers and external lawyers. We have to pay insurance…’

The words said to have been spoken by the EFCC Chairman cannot support the lurid headlines that Dr Okonjo-Iweala is under investigation by the EFCC. The Nigerian media plays an important role in our democracy and we urge them to be fair, balanced and factual in their reports.”

The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, had  told the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Financial Crimes that the commission will soon take the ongoing anti-graft war to the petroleum and other unspecified sectors of the nation's economy. He was before the committee to defend the the 2015 budget performance and 2016 budget proposals of the anti-graft agency.

Magu also said that the commission needed to build its capacity towards the recovering of looted funds especially in the petroleum sector.

He hinted that the reason behind extending the anti-graft war to the petroleum sector was to recover the funds they looted.

Magu told the House Committee that the Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning had recommended the slashing of the agency's overhead cost for 2016 from the proposed N2,999,245,761.00 billion to N1,389,429,463.00 billion, which he said represented a shortfall of N1,609,816,298 or 116%.

The anti-crime chief told the committee that  would adversely affect the prosecution of war against corruption. According to him, areas that would be affected if the planned slash of the commission's budget is implemented include investigative activities, manpower development and maintenance of logistics. He said that the commission was aware of the dwindling oil revenue and the Federal Government's commitment to reduce recurrent expenditure in the financial year, even as he called on the National Assembly to consider the approval of an additional N500 million for the agency.

He said, “in view of the current increase in the commission's activities to achieve its anti-corruption mandate, the ministry's proposal will adversely affect her ability to prosecute the war against corruption.” In addition he explained would assist its operational activities “as more sectors of the economy may likely come under investigative activities during the year”.

In his presentation, Magu highlighted the challenges facing the EFCC like space constraints because of the agency's inability to complete its permanent headquarters, high rent rate, dearth of adequate manpower and operational vehicles. He said the commission achieved about 91 percent of its 2015 approved budget with only about nine percent shortfall, calling on lawmakers to come to the rescue of the agency in the appropriation of adequate funds in the 2016 budget.

Magu also craved for the support of the National Assembly in the planned recruitment of additional 750 staff of different cadres for the agency in 2016 in order to create core staff for EFCC as most staff are on secondment.

“According, it my honour and privilege to present to this honourable committee, EFCC budget proposal for the 2016 financial year in the sum of N11,422,991,540.00 as capital; N2,999,245,741.00 as overhead component of recurrent expenditure and the Ministry's budget proposal of N6,664,040,791.00 for personnel; N1,389,429,463.00 for overhead and N3,168,744,217.00 for capital, for your kind consideration,” Magu said. Earlier, the committee chairman, Rep Kayode Oladele, assured of the legislature's readiness to assist EFCC to achieve its mandate and the agency's transformation to a world class anti-graft institution. Oladele said, “Since then,nevertheless have unfolded quickly with tens of arrests and prosecution of corrupt persons as well as the return of some of the looted funds by former public officers and their cronies in the private sector.”