Amaechi accuses EFCC of 'political agenda' as rift with Presidency deepens

Rotimi Amaechi
Rotimi Amaechi

Rotimi Amaechi
The speculated frosty relationship between Rivers State governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and President Goodluck Jonathan has taken another dimension as the governor has accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of seeking to coerce him into supporting Jonathan ahead of the 2011 presidential election. He, however threatened to mobilise the people of the state against EFCC.

Less than a fortnight ago, Jonathan's wife and Nigerian First Lady, Dame Patience publicly embarrassed the governor at a public function in her hometown, Okrika, accusing him of insensitivity to persons she described as “my people.”

Speaking Thursday morning at a summit on information and communication in Port Harcourt, the state capital, the governor said he was not unaware of plots to stop his re-election because of his not-strong-enough support for President Jonathan's ambition to contest the 2011 presidential election.

Amaechi disclosed that he was also aware of speculations in certain quarters that some Abuja-based politicians and “criminals” were relying on certain godfathers to challenge him in next year's election in the state, but that he was certain to defeat them as long as the polls are free and fair.

The governor said he had been inundated with calls and advice from certain persons to tone down his public speeches, but that as one with no godfather and nothing to hide, he was obliged to speak his mind on what he believes is the truth and just.

Said Amaechi: “I am governor. I have not said anything about 2011 election, the only thing I said is come here and declare support for Goodluck Jonathan and immediately I did that, they said I did not speak and EFCC is here today.

“We must reform the country. I have never said any day that I don't support the president. Never! All I have said is that for me in Rivers State, we desire reform here and that reform I will pursue. Those who want to cart away Rivers money should wait after my tenure.

“What is EFCC doing here? They never came all these while. Today they are here. Why are they here? Let's say EFCC is doing their job. They have a responsibility to go after those who are corrupt. But there is a judgment of a Federal High Court which says EFCC cannot come to Rivers State. Is EFCC above the law?” he quizzed.

The governor who urged the Federal government to “allow us secure our place” described himself as “one stubborn, voiceless person” in a country where “EFCC lives in disobedience of court orders” and where “everybody is cowed.”

He stated: “There is a judgment of the High Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. EFCC has filed an appeal but abandoned it for the past two years. EFCC is here in disobedience to that court order. And I know the law says that even where a judgement is given in error, only a court of superior jurisdiction can discharge it and until that judgment is discharged you cannot disobey it

“I have been appealing (to EFCC) for the past two years. Go and discharge that judgment. They have not been able to go and discharge that judgment. They are only living in disobedience,” demanding, “is this country not a country of rule of law?”

As one who had been once hounded by EFCC, the governor said he now knew better that most times when EFCC invades a state, it is more out of political motivation that for that to really investigate graft.

“In the last dispensation when you hear that EFCC has come to a state, you start hearing “Ole! Ole!” (thief thief!) ; you don't know that it is it is politically motivated. Today, EFCC has again become a political tool. I was arrested by EFCC in 2006 December just because they didn't want me to be governor of Rivers State. They are here again now that the new governorship election is near to see if they can stop us again.

“Now, I am governor, I will use what I call the peoples power. If EFCC continues here, we will mobilise people against EFCC”, threatened the governor, urging, “they (EFCC) should wait until after election they should come.”

He advised: “I am not stopping them from working. They should do two things. One, discharge the judgment of the court. Two, wait unit after the election. So that we will have both free and fair result. Keep away EFCC from us. Let's finish elections. Let them discharge the judgment then they can come and investigate us,” cautioning, “but if they come only during election, what are they looking for, to intimidate us; and if they intimidate you, is that election free and fair?”

The governor expressed regret that, rather than appreciate his first-in-Africa mono-rail project, the no less than 15 health centres in each local government area, and the multi-billion Naira Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo highway, among many projects, some persons he said had sequestered themselves in Abuja were bent on pulling Rivers State to the past.

Sources hinted that EFCC had brushed aside subsisting court judgement, and moved operatives into Rivers State and begun “interviewing” Tammy Danagogo and Fin George Feyii, Commissioners for Local Government Affairs and Finance respectively, in addition to chairmen of Port Harcourt, Obio Akpor, Emohua and Ikwerre councils.

A former ambassador told that while he was not opposed to EFCC doing its job of following up on genuine petitions, the timing of the renewed probe on Rivers State, as well as EFCC's failure the vacate or appeal the court judgment against it, suggested that “they may have been tele-guided from Abuja.”

“There are certain things in life that can't just but leave a sour taste in the mouth. I did not believe it at first, but one of the council chairmen confirmed to me that some EFCC officials have begun to harass them. If you put the timing of the failed attempt to form a parallel PDP exco in the state beside the First Lady's recent blunder, any right-thinking official of EFCC should have given Rivers State a wide berth,” he declared.