Fire Destroys Vital EFCC Documents

There are strong indications that the case files of bank directors standing trial for various financial frauds may have been burnt yesterday when fire gutted the legal department of the Lagos office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on Tuesday. The fire, which happened between 11am and noon at the agency’s No. 15, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos premises, destroyed vital files,

computers, air conditioners, tables, chairs, various documents and equipment in three offices.  The cause of the inferno was not known.

It was learnt that the office of the Head of Legal Department, Mr. M.S. Hassan and two other offices adjacent to his office were destroyed by fire. Earlier reports had it that the fire did not spread to Hassan’s office.

Though the fire was put out before it spread to other offices of the legal unit, before then, some vital files, especially the case files on advance fee fraud cases and those of bank directors on trial were suspected to have been burnt.

The files are believed to contain crucial information on various high-profile cases being handled by the agency, although the actual ones could not be ascertained.

The spokesman of the EFCC’s Lagos office, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the development to journalists.

Uwujaren said, “The fire happened between 11am and noon. EFCC staff were not around when the fire occurred. People only noticed smoke coming out from the building.”

He said that that though no lives were lost, important legal documents, computers and other items were destroyed by the inferno. He commended the fire service for responding promptly to the distress call by the commission.

According to him, “The officials of the fire service responded quickly to the distress call by the commission. When they came, the fire was put out without much damage to other adjoining premises.”

Asked whether the fire was politically-motivated, Uwujaren, said that the cause could not be ascertained.

Meanwhile, the EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, has ordered an investigation into the fire incident.

A statement by the EFCC’s Head, Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Babafemi, said that after being briefed on the incident, the chairman said that though not much damage was done to the affected facility, she had to order a probe to enable the commission to establish its cause.

The statement added, “At about 11.30am today, Tuesday, three out of the 13 offices occupied by the legal unit in our Awolowo road, Ikoyi, Lagos office were affected by a fire outbreak that reportedly started in one of the offices. It is, however, gratifying that the fire was quickly put out through the prompt intervention of men of the fire service in Ikoyi before it could spread to other offices where sensitive case files are kept. Members of the public are therefore assured that our case files are safe and secure.”

The agency is currently prosecuting a number of former governors and ministers as well as some ex-managing directors and erstwhile senior officials of banks in various courts in Lagos.

These include the trial of former bank managing directors – Mrs. Cecilia Ibru (Oceanic Bank); Mr. Bartholomew Ebong (Union Bank); Mr. Sebastine Adigwe (Afribank); Mr. Okey Nwosu (FinBank); Mr. Francis Atuche (Bank PHB); a director of Bank PHB, Mr. Francis Ojo; and Managing Director of Falcon Securities, Mr. Peter Ololo and some directors of Intercontinental Bank.

Others are the ongoing trial of ex-governors Rashidi Ladoja (Oyo); Chimaraoke Nnamani (Enugu) and a former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode.

The EFCC is prosecuting a Nigerian-based Indian businessman, Patrick Fernandez, on a 56-count charge of alleged attempt to defraud some Nigerian banks of about N32bn.