EFCC gets court’s nod to detain ex-bank chiefs

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday obtained a court’s permission to further detain two of the three former bank managing directors in its custody. BankPHB boss, ex-SpringBank MD to stay in custody till Nov. 3 while the chair Mrs. Farida Waziri yesterday began consultations with top United States government officials and Congressmen to erase the impression that the agency has “fallen off”.

The warrants were issued against Francis Atuche of Bank PHB and Ojo Charles Enaholo of SpringBank.

The commission exhibited two court warrants, which it said were issued by an Ikeja Magistrate’s Court Two, Lagos, presided over by Mrs Oyindamola Ogala.

EFCC spokesman in Lagos Mr Wilson Uwuigiaren said the warrants empower the agency to further detain the two ex-bank chiefs till November 3 when they will be brought to the court at 9a.m.

The court’s permission, according to the warrant, is subject to review. The orders, he said, were obtained yesterday afternoon.

Uwuigiaren disclosed that with the orders, the commission now has an opportunity to properly investigate the detained persons.

The suspects were to be detained at the Okotie Eboh, Ikoyi, Lagos office of the EFCC.

EFCC said secret interrogation of the bank debtors at an undisclosed location was normal, adding that the commission had been empowered by an act of parliament.

“In fact, we do not need to consult with either the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC),” he added.

The remand warrants/charges, were filed under the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2007, Number 10, A249.

The spokesman said the meeting between EFCC operatives and bank debtors continued yesterday at the locations which he refused to disclose.

He added that some of the debtors have volunteered to repay their debts, adding that EFCC operatives were still hunting for defaulters.

He declined comments on the number of debtors who have turned up for the meetings so far and how much has been recovered.

Atuche and Ojo were arrested last weekend over alleged insider abuse, mismanagement, and huge portfolio of non-performing loans while in office.

Atuche on Monday applied to the EFCC to either grant him bail or charge him to court instead of detaining him perpetually.

He said his detention since last Friday was a breach of the stipulated constitutional provision of 48 hours.

Following Atuche’s application, the EFCC went to the court to secure an order to further detain him and Ojo for two weeks.

A Sturdy defence of Nigeria’s anti-corruption battle is on in the United States. 

Mrs Waziri while in the US is also expected to seek assistance on outstanding cases requiring exploration of the Mutual Legal Treaty Assistance (MLAT) between the two countries.

A source, who spoke in confidence with The Nation, yesterday, said Mrs Waziri left Nigeria on Sunday night for the US.

The visit is coming up two months after the US Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, said the EFCC had “fallen off” in the last one year.

Mrs Clinton handed down the verdict at a Town Hall Meeting at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja on August 12.

Although Mrs Clinton’s comments generated furore, it was gathered that a flurry of diplomatic consultations had taken place between the US and Nigeria over the matter.

Mrs Waziri’s visit is at the instance of some US agencies to listen to her own side of the situation and foster more understanding.

A source said Mrs Waziri’s trip was at the instance of the American Council on Foreign Relations.

According to the source, the EFCC chairman is also expected to hold talks with some White House officials, congressmen, security agencies and influential groups in the United States.

Her last leg of the visit might be an audience with the US Black Mayors in Las Vegas by weekend.

He said: “Mrs Waziri on Tuesday had breakfast with the American Council on Foreign Relations at about 10am. The Council comprises top officials of the American government, business people, and congressmen.

“In the afternoon, she also had a meeting with the Corporate Council on Africa.

“The whole essence is to update these American officials on the work of the commission and seek further assistance.

“Mrs. Waziri will seek assistance on some of the ongoing or outstanding cases requiring the support of the US. We also have issues of some Nigerians that ought to be extradited.

“The visit will enable her to improve relationship with the US on anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria.

“She will also impress on officials from the Executive and Legislative arms that the anti-corruption situation is not as bad as being portrayed by some propagandists.”

Mrs Waziri’s trip to the US is the first since her appointment in 2008 as Chairman of the EFCC.

Following the controversial removal of the former EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, there had been a strained relationship between the commission and the US Government.

The US Government has not been appreciative of Nigeria’s efforts on some cases, such as the Halliburton scam; the Siemens scandal; and the trial of some ex-governors.

Investigation revealed that there had been a frosty relationship between the EFCC chairman and the US Ambassador to Nigeria , Ms Renee Sanders.

It was gathered that the two women do not see eye-to-eye because of the alleged mindset of the Ambassador that the EFCC has nothing to offer after Ribadu’s exit. Although Sanders was the first to meet with the Chairman of the EFCC after her appointment, the romance did not last.

Findings revealed that Sanders had written an unsigned letter to Mrs. Waziri on how the anti-graft war should be pursued.

But the EFCC chairman, in her reply, insisted that the war against corruption would be carried out within the ambit of the rule of law policy of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

But it was learnt last night that Mrs Waziri’s visit is an attempt to improve the relationship between the EFCC and the US Government.

Attempts to speak with the Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Femi Babafemi, last night were unsuccessful. A reliable source said Babafemi might have left Nigeria to join his boss in the US.