ByÂ WALE AKINOLA
CLAIMS and counterÂ claims are now trailing the reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, cleared three former governors – Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of Lagos State; Obong Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom State, and Chief James Ibori of Delta State – over the allegation that they were involved in activities bordering on official corruption and abuse ofÂ office while holding power.
The EFCC, in a statement, on Friday, denied that it cleared the three former governors. â€œThe letter being referred to in these reports have no specific impact or reference to the cases of the three former governors as it was only an advice to a bank on the operation of a companyâ€™s bank account and as such cannot speak for
substantive cases being investigated,â€the EFCC statement said.
However, documents obtained by Sunday Vanguard, at the weekend, suggested that the governors were indeed investigated but cleared. Their clearance was communicated through an EFCC letter to their solicitors, dated January 21, 2009, saying â€œinvestigation into this matter is concluded and no case of money laundering established against your client.
Subsequently your clientâ€™s accounts defrozen.â€ On the same day, the case against the three governors was struck out by the High Court of Lagos State sitting in Ikeja following a submission by the prosecution.
The attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, had, in disclosing the Federal Governmentâ€™s rejection of a request by Britain for release of evidence needed for further investigation and prosecution of the three former governors, late last week, said they had been cleared of
corruption allegation by the EFCC, thereby ruling outÂ any fresh action against them unless the anti-graft commission reopened the case.
Tinubu, Attah and Ibori were specifically accused of pooling the resources of their respective states together to form an organisation styled African Development Fund Incorporated (ADFI) with the sole purpose of acquiring shares in ECONET, a telecommunications firm.
The three former governors were said to have contributed money running into millions of dollars into the ADFI account with registration number 0140011552 while they held office.
â€˜Weâ€™ve not cleared â€˜emâ€™: The EFCC, in the statement signed by its spokesman, Femi Babafemi, on Friday, said: â€œThe attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been drawn to reports in national dailies of today, September 11, 2009 to the effect that the anti-graft agency has cleared some former governors who have been under investigation.
The commission wishes to state emphatically that it has not at any time or in any correspondence with the persons referred to in these media reports or any other person cleared them of complicity in all matters relating to them which are either in court or still under investigation.
â€œIt is, therefore, inappropriate to input or infer that the three former governors have been exonerated in matters that are still pending or yet to be determined by the law court which is the only competentÂ organ of government that can pronounce guilt or innocence in matters like the ones under reference.
The commission has to make this clarification in view of the volume of enquiries from concerned Nigerians so as to lay to rest all doubts and insinuations as to the position of the Commission and its leadership in all these.
â€œThe letter being referred to in these reports haveÂ noÂ specific impact or reference to the cases of the three former governors as it was only an advice to a bank on the operation of a companyâ€™s account and as such cannot speak for substantive cases being investigated.
While not adjudging anyone guilty until proven so, the commission wishes to restate that it has not in anyway declared the three former governors innocent of the allegations for which they are being investigated.â€
Clean bill of health But a letter written by one Umar M. Sanda, on behalf of the executive chairman of the EFCC, to the lawyers of ADFI, Adepetun Caxton Martins Agbor and Segun, Solicitors and Advocates, and dated January 21, 2009, obtained by Sunday Vanguard indicated that the governors were given a clean bill of health.
The letter was in response to the lawyers letter of January 15, 2009 to the EFCC seeking to know the outcome of the commissionâ€™s investigation into the allegation of official corruption against the three former governors involved
in the ADFIÂ project.
The EFCC, in the reply, said: â€œI refer to your letter dated January 15, 2009 on the above subject matter. InvestigationÂ into the matter is concluded and no case of money laundering established against your client. Subsequently, your clientâ€™s accounts defrozen.
The letter is without prejudice to further revelations.â€ On January 21, 2009, the case against the three governors being heard by Justice M. Olokoba of the IkejaÂ High Court was struck out after the prosecution announced withdrawal from the suit.