El-Rufai Denied New International Passport

The former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister Nasir el-Rufai, who was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commis-sion (EFCC) in December last year over alleged abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds totalling N32 billion has been denied a new Nigerian international passport.

Since finishing his studies at Harvard University in the United States, el-Rufai has been based in Dubai and London. The EFCC had unleashed its fangs on him, setting the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) on his trail.

It was learnt that the former minister approached the Nigerian High Commission in London last Thursday for a new international passport having exhausted the entire booklet of the current one.
He was said to have been told to come back on Tuesday (two days ago) for photographing and thumb-printing. When he went back, el-Rufai was said to have been pointedly denied a new passport.

THISDAY Reports:

A Minister in the High Commission, Mr. Sola Enikanolaye, told THISDAY on telephone that the ex-minister was told to wait for the seven days needed for the new passport but that he was not ready to wait.
El-Rufai, however, denied such, saying he was told by an official of the High Commission that it had an order that he should not be issued a new passport.
“I was told by an official of the High Commission that there was a standing instruction from Abuja that I should not be issued with a new passport,” the ex-minister said.
But THISDAY has confirmed that the denial of the new passport is part of the plan to “get back” at the controversial former minister.
The newspaper learnt that the High Commission had a standing instruction from the Nigerian Immigration Service not to issue el-Rufai a new passport booklet.
EFCC had on Sunday December 21, 2008 declared the former minister wanted.
A statement then by the anti-graft agency said el-Rufai was wanted for abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds to the tune of N32 billion.
The money was part of the proceeds from the sale of Federal Government houses in Abuja and funds collected by the Satellite Towns Development Agency (STDA) and the Abuja Investment and Property Development Company Limited over which a Senate committee had indicted el-Rufai.
EFCC Spokesman Femi Babafemi had said the need to declare el- Rufai wanted became imperative following his failure to honour “a simple invitation from the commission to respond to weighty allegations levelled against him in petitions being investigated by the commission”.
Babafemi said the commission had written el-Rufai some weeks before then to appear before it on November 28, 2008.
Instead of honouring the invitation, he wrote back through his counsel asking the EFCC to send its questions to him.
He had claimed then that he was writing an examination outside the country.
“This prompted the commission to grant him another three (3) weeks grace. But instead of seizing the opportunity to respond to the allegations against him, he had resorted to a hide and seek game, and an appalling show of impunity on the pages of newspapers,” Babafemi had said in the statement.
But on April 15, 2009, EFCC Chairman Farida Waziri said the former minister would soon be repatriated to Nigeria to answer to the allegations against him.
Her pronouncement had come just as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Michael Aondoakaa accused el-Rufai of looking for cheap ways to seek political asylum outside the country by criticising the anti-graft fight of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Speaking at a crowded press conference to take stock of the commission which had turned six years in office in April, Waziri said the el-Rufai matter had been filed in court, signalling the commission’s intent to begin the process of extradition.
She said the latest process was an attempt within the rule of law mantra of the commission to get the former minister to account for his stewardship as Minister of the FCT, which was strewn with controversy especially in the demolition of buildings and revocation of plots of land.
“The case of Nasir el-Rufai has also been filed and the commission will soon commence the process of his extradition,” Waziri had said.
She had, however, declined to say how soon el-Rufai would be brought home, saying it was beyond the commission now as it was a judicial matter.
EFCC later raided System Properties Development Company (SPDC) office in Abuja allegedly owned by him.
During the raid on the company located on Kandi Close, off Aminu Kano Crescent in Wuse District of Abuja, EFCC officials arrested the company’s managing Director Idris Usman and five others.
The company was believed by EFCC to have been used by el-Rufai to buy up several plots of lands seized from allottees under his administration in FCT.
The EFCC operatives had said they recovered numerous vital documents from the company including land application forms, list of FCT revoked lands, minutes of ministerial meetings, classified documents of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) and papers on contract awarded by the el-Rufai administration at FCT.