Posted by By HENRY UMAHI [Umahi@sunnewsonline.com] on
A senator of the federal republic is currently under the periscope of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over his vast estates and acquisitions in the last couple of years.
A senator of the federal republic is currently under the periscope of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over his vast estates and acquisitions in the last couple of years. The anti-corruption agency will also probe into how N122 million was spent on legal fees while the senator served as commissioner for justice and attorney general.
This is in line with the determination of the EFCC to probe the source of wealth of Nigerians, as part of its tactics in the war against corruption.
The investigation of Senator Effiong Dickson Bob, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District, became necessary following a petition by a retired civil servant and anti-corruption activist, Mr. Okon Akpan, to the EFCC asking for a thorough investigation into what he referred to as the “sudden wealth” of the federal lawmaker.
The petition, which is backed with volumes of documentary exhibits and dated November 5, 2008, requested the commission to probe Senator Bob’s tenure as Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General in Akwa Ibom State, during the administration of former Governor Victor Attah. It was a reminder to the EFCC on an earlier petition dated October 2, 2008, which claimed that the senator’s assets were worth over N1.458 billion.
Akpan, from Nsit Ubium Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, in the petition insisted that it was imperative for the EFCC to investigate the sources of Senator Bob’s wealth, in such a short time in public office, when it was not known that he inherited such from his parents or made fortune in private practice as a lawyer.
Alleging that Senator Bob suddenly got rich when he was commissioner for justice, Akpan alleged that various projects served as conduit pipe to siphon public funds. For example, he said in the petition that the Attah administration embarked on a project of producing law books for the state locally, but that Senator Bob, as commissioner for justice and attorney general of the state, opted to print the law books abroad, with a view to earning foreign exchange.
The petition said: “It was agreed that the books be printed locally by Nigeria-based companies, viz, Oxford Press, University Press or Longman Nigeria Ltd, but Senator Bob, in a bid to make ill-gotten wealth, took the books for printing overseas and in the process made good money for himself with which he opened a Domiciliary Account at Standard Chartered Bank, Wuse Branch, Abuja (Account number 2811012450 – pound account) and another account 8711012450 – dollar account) with the same bank. Please, request for the account statement from the bank; you will marvel how much money was laundered through these accounts.
“As if that was not enough, as Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General in Akwa Ibom State, between 1999 and 2003, Senator Effiong abused his office and through false misrepresentation, misappropriated the total sum of N122 million vide approval obtained in two memos HAG/MISC Vol 11.21 and MJ/CLD/79/66 dated June 26, 2001 and December 13, 2001 respectively.
“For instance, as a Commissioner of Justice/Attorney General, Senator Bob abused his office by recommending and also paying legal fees of over N12 million to himself when he represented Akwa Ibom State in a suit SC/28/2001, the Attorney General of the Federation vs. Abia State and 35 others. He disguised the fraudulent payment as honorarium. The question is, was it right for Senator Bob, who was a full-time Commissioner for Justice/Attorney General in Akwa Ibom State to recommend and actually receive fees by whatever name for appearing in a case on behalf of the government of Akwa Ibom State when he was already earning salaries from the state?”
Details of the two letters purportedly written by Senator Bob, as commissioner for justice in Akwa Ibom, asked for N71 million and N40.5 million. In one of the letters, with reference number HAG.MISC/I/Vol11/21 and dated June 26, 2001, in which Senator Bob, as commissioner of justice, asked for N71 million, the breakdown of the disbursement is as follows: Payment of honorarium to Mrs. Paul Usoro, Dr. Enefiok Essien, Barrister Jerry Akpan, Barrister A. A. Asuquo, Barrister Uyouko S. Uyouko and Chief (Barr) E, E. Eneyo, N25 million; payment of professional fees to lawyers actually appearing at the Supreme Court, N15 million; honorarium to lawyers in service, N5 million; Nigeria Bar Association, N5 million; Judiciary Committee of the House of Assembly, N5 million and miscellaneous, N10 million.
In another letter dated December 31, 2001 and with reference number MJ/CL79/66, Senator Bob broke down the disbursement of N40.5 million as follows: Chief Ekong Bassey (second installment), N15 million; Barrister Ansalem Eyo, N5 million; Barrister Christopher Paul Attah, N5 million; Barrister Essien Udom, N5 million; final honorarium to lawyers in service of Akwa Ibom government also appearing at the Supreme Court, N8 million; filing and service of processes, N500,000 and press, logistics and security, N2 million.
The letters showed that money was claimed for by the then commissioner for justice for the Nigeria Bar Association, Judiciary Committee of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, among others. The question the petitioner wants answered is, what was the money for the NBA and the House committee meant for?
He requested the EFCC “to investigate not only the fraudulent conversion of government funds through abuse of office but also investigate the misappropriation of N122 million he (Senator Bob) collected for payment to lawyers and corporate bodies whom he claimed were entitled to be paid in order to facilitate easy passage of these illegal acts.”
The petition added: “Senator Bob has, within a few years, amassed so much wealth that questions need to be asked about the sources of his income. The EFCC should please investigate and ask the senator to explain how he came to acquire the following assets:
Grandville Hotels and Restaurant Ltd, 20 Udofia Street and 28 Atang Street, Eket (value-N1 billion) in 2005
A mansion at G line No 28 Ewet Housing, Uyo (valued at N250,) in 2000
15 plots (farms /steads)in Ikot Ekwere, Nsit Ubium (valued at N65m) in 2000
Houses at 26 and 28 Road 351, Gwarimpa, Abuja (valued at N40m) in 2003
Maisonette at 31 Flat 1, Apo Quarters, Abuja (valued at 26m) in 2003
Property at Asokoro, Abuja (valued at N15m) in 2006
Property on Alfred Cock Road, Afaha Eket (valued at N12m) in 2006
Property at 18, Akwa Ima Estate, Uyo (valued at N50m) in 2006
It further alleged that the senator owns Intercede Commodities Ltd, Grandville Travels and Tours Ltd, Trusense Nig Ltd, Efibob Company Ltd, CBX Services Ltd, Leenford Oil and Gas Ltd, Grandville Hotels and Resort Ltd, Leenford Foods Ltd, Leenford Projects Ltd, Chelsea Water Ltd and Newlife Multipurpose Cooperative Societies Ltd.
In conclusion, the petition, which also has a copy of Senator Bob’s Assets Declaration Form for Public Officers, expressly implored “the EFCC to investigate Senator Effiong Bob finances, with a view to establishing that his stupendous wealth truly came from his legitimate earnings as a senator and from his income as a former commissioner in Akwa Ibom State from 1999 to 2003.”
However, Senator Bob has denied using his office as Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General in Akwa Ibom State or as a senator of the federal republic to enrich himself.
In a telephone interview with Saturday Sun, he said that although he had not seen the petition in question or invited by the EFCC, he was not bothered because he has clean records in various offices he had served.
According to him, “my records are there; my records are clean,” maintaining that it was during his tenure that Akwa Ibom State was able to have its own laws. He said that hitherto, the operational laws were Cross River State laws as applicable in Akwa Ibom State.
Senator Bob claimed that the petition has a political undertone, contending that those involved in the campaign of calumny to smear his name are doing so because their calculation is that he would join the race for the Akwa Ibom State Government House in 2011.
Hear said: “It’s all about politics. But not everyone can be governor in 2011. They should leave me alone to discharge my duties as a Senator.”
A source at the EFCC confirmed that the anti-graft agency had received the petition against Senator Bob and is looking into it.
The source said that the senator would only be invited if the EFCC discovers that he has a case to answer.
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