The Reason Why I Had To Stand Surety For Dr Ngozi Olejeme
Towards the end of last year, a colleague of mine based in Abuja called and briefed me of an Efcc matter involving his client who is based in South Africa. He informed me that the client will want me to handle the matter for her as suggested by him. He told me that Efcc had already declared her wanted even though his client says that she is innocent of the allegations. I told him that I will be interested in hearing from the potential client directly as I do not work on hearsay evidence and he promised to do just that. The woman eventually called that night and we exchanged pleasantries. She sounded very friendly and lively on phone. After the greetings, she delved into the story of her travail with the Efcc. She alleged that certain officials who worked with her in NSITF ganged up when they were arrested for stealing the funds of the agency to implicate her falsely thinking that she will not come back to Nigeria due to her medical issues. She told me of her desire and intention to come back to Nigeria to clear her name but the only snag is that due to her complicated medical history and treatment she would not want to be detained by the Efcc when she comes back as her medical condition demands constant use of injection and drugs.
I told her that it is better for her to come and clear her name of any allegation as her refusal will not augur well for her reputation and for her freedom even while abroad. I requested her to send to me her medical reports from hospitals abroad which I intend to use to seek the understanding of EFCC not to detain her when she comes back for her charges. She sent those reports and I made a letter to EFCC detailing her medical history and condition which had made her coming back before that time impossible. In my subsequent letter to EFCC, I was able to communicate the date she will come back to Nigeria to respond to the allegations of corruption at NSITF where she was the Board Chairman.
As agreed, she came back on the date we communicated and the following day I took her to Efcc to respond to the allegations. We were there by 10am prompt but we did not start until 12 noon as the Efcc officials were obviously not expecting her coming back so suddenly as they had to run helther skelther to locate her file and commence the interrogation. The interrogation lasted for about 8 hours after which they gave us bail conditions which we promptly complied with, but unfortunately we were informed by the Investigating Officer that Dr Olejeme will not go home that day but has to be detained in a hospital in Abuja. We were not only surprised but were shocked as we have fulfilled all the conditions of bail. As we have no choice my client was detained in a private hospital in Abuja with EFCC officials guarding her. Even though in a hospital, she was complaining constantly that she is not feeling well and that the presence of Efcc officials affects her psychologically, worsening her recovery process.
At her instance we filed for the enforcement of her fundamental human rights at the Federal Capital Territory High court, Abuja. The Efcc counsel replied us stating that they have a court order to detain her for 14 days pending investigation, however at the date fixed for the hearing of the application, the court did not sit. The Efcc magnanimously decided not to renew the detention order but rather chose to release her on bail but with a condition that those level 15 and 14 officers in the public service will not be acceptable to the Chairman of Efcc. No specific reason or reasons were given for the rejection but the Investigating Officer informed us that the Acting Chairman of Efcc said he will allow me, Mr Ubani and one other person to take Dr Olejeme on bail. I weighed the condition and came to the conclusion that since the woman willingly submitted herself to Efcc from South Africa and has many movable assets coupled with the fact that she is bringing her family back to Nigeria, it will be unjust for me to reject to stand surety for her since I was privy to her coming back to Nigeria to respond to the allegations against her by Efcc. For the 14 days or so the woman was in that hospital I was under tremendous pressure from her and her sister to secure her release as her health was said to be deteriorating and so I had little choice when that window of option was thrown open after Efcc rejected the sureties she provided, more so when we were informed that the Acting Chairman requested that I should stand for her.
I and her former friend who was a House of Representative member signed the bail bond and she was accordingly released on bail that same day.
While on bail, we were asked to come for further interrogations which were duly complied with. Even though I live and work in Lagos I was always taking her to Efcc on her scheduled days except one or two occasions when I asked a colleague of mine in Abuja to accompany her.
I observed that Efcc was not much eager to charge her but was more interested in getting the details of her alleged properties, movable and immovable and that process took almost two months to accomplish. Even after completing the process, still no charge was preferred up till date.
Sometime ago in April this year I got a call from a colleague in Abuja that Efcc has invaded the home of Dr Olejeme and were forcefully trying to gain access to the compound. I became alarmed since I know that Dr Olejeme was on bail and I could not reasonably fathom why they were there in the first place to the extent of trying to force themselves in. I called the Investigating officer in Abuja who answered that he is not aware of any such operation from their office. When I was told that they were almost breaking down the gate, I asked them to allow them in even if they are unknown but they must alert the nearest police station of the strange situation that was playing out. They were allowed in and the information I got later on was that the Efcc personnels were there at the instance of one Arthur Eze who was alleged to have given money to Dr Olejeme for political and charitable purposes but is now demanding the money to be paid back to him with interest. When Dr Olejeme could not respond to his demands, he instituted a civil suit in court in Abuja which was widely publicized in the media. I guess when the media propaganda did not make Dr Olejeme to bulge, he chose Efcc to recover the money hence the ferocity and killer mood with which they came for the recovery. I learnt that Dr Olejeme was terribly shocked and shaken at such display of raw power and show of intimidation as it was reported that the street was condoned off and no visitor was allowed to come into the street and the number of Efcc officers that came for the operation were more than 10. I was told that when they eventually gained access into her house they made away with documents and some other valuables. I was able to get in touch with the Director of the Efcc in Enugu who told me that the woman must be brought to Enugu that same day, I pleaded with him to allow me bring the woman personally a request he initially turned down. I later learnt that the woman was taken out of the house to where I do not know. A report I read later in the newspaper was to the effect that the EFCC arrested her and later released her on bail. The question is to whom did they release her? Up till now I have tried her number and it is not going through. I called the colleague that introduced me to the woman and her sister and they told me that they are yet to see her and that the children are feeding from hand to mouth. The Efcc director later called asking me of her whereabout and I told him that I did not know as they were the cause for her disappearance. He requested for her number which I promptly supplied to him. Since then I have not heard from him.
I was not satisfied with that explanation and had to travel to Abuja to see the family. I saw all the children and I asked them where is your mother and they told me that they have not seen their mother after the last visit of Efcc to their house. The children are in the hands of people the woman employed to take care of them.
The pertinent questions are: who is holding the woman? Why will Efcc from another unit invade the home of a suspect who is on bail with them, more so when the matter they came for is purely a civil matter which was already in court? Why was she not invited by the Agency for whatever the allegations are and know whether she will honour the invitation or not? To whom did they release her on bail after the second arrest? Why the long wait to charge a woman whom efcc declared wanted since last year and who came back in December and was granted bail early January and up to now, no charge? Was this issue of rejecting valid sureties and insisting that I should be the one to stand for her a ploy to embarrass me for bringing the woman back from abroad to respond to her charges? Why am I being asked to produce her when it is the same Efcc that invaded her home when she was under bail? It is pertinent to point out that later in the day, the investigating officer in Abuja confirmed that the Efcc officials who came from Enugu got permission from the Acting Chairman to come and arrest Dr Olejeme. These and many other questions demand answers!
As part of my effort to find Dr. Olejeme, I have written to INTERPOl. The international has since placed Olejeme on their ‘wanted persons’ list. The EFCC is also aware of this.
MONDAY ONYEKACHI UBANI ESQ.