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N32bn Fraud: EFCC declares el-Rufai wanted - Why EFCC can’t arrest him -Counsel

Posted by Lanre Adewole and Taiwo Adisa, Abuja on 2008/12/24 | Views: 892 |

N32bn Fraud: EFCC declares el-Rufai wanted - Why EFCC can’t arrest him -Counsel


THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has declared former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, wanted over an alleged N32 billion fraud while in office.

THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has declared former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, wanted over an alleged N32 billion fraud while in office.

A statement issued in Abuja on Sunday and signed by the commission’s spokesperson, Femi Babafemi, stated that the former minister “is wanted for abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds to the tune of N32 billion.”

The statement added that “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.”

The commission had summoned el-Rufai to appear before it on November 28.

The commission claimed that instead of honouring the invitation, the former minister wrote back through his counsel, requesting the commission to send its questions to him.

He based his request on his participation in an examination abroad.

Babafemi further noted that “this prompted the commission to grant him another three weeks grace. But instead of seizing the opportunity to respond to the weighty allegations against him, he has resorted to a hide-and-seek game and an appalling show of impunity on the pages of newspapers.”

Speaking on the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) at the weekend, el-Rufai dared the commission, saying that he would not honour the invitation.

According to him, “I am a student, I cannot leave my studies to come to Nigeria to answer questions from anybody because I am not a government employee.”

Meanwhile, more facts have emerged on the manhunt for the former minister by the commission.

Nigerian Tribune gathered that el-Rufai had many petitions against him which the commission had been investigating, with a petition from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) said to be receiving priority from the commission.

Documents seen by the Nigerian Tribune claimed the conversion of 13 plots of land originally allocated in Abuja Master Plan to the PHCN into his family’s use, despite warnings from top civil servants in the ministry and construction giants, Julius Berger, which was reportedly given the contract to convert the plots for private use.

The plots, located in Asokoro Area D, were allegedly distributed among himself, his wife and children.

The plots, according to the documents, included 3375 to 3384, 1196 and 1198 to 2000.

In one of the documents, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, following an alleged request by el-Rufai to develop the plots for his family members, had written to Engineer (Mrs.) Elizabeth Oricha of the Directorate, Engineering Services, Federal Capital Development Authority, Block A, Area 11, Abuja, calling her attention to the alleged illegality of the ex-minister’s request and planned action.

The letter on Berger’s letterhead, dated 26 January, 2007 and received by the addressee on same day was entitled “The Design and Construction of Engineering Infrastructure Abuja Asokoro Area D, with subject as ‘Abuja Masterplan Conflict.”

Meanwhile, counsel for el-Rufai, Mr. A.U Mustapha, has said that the EFCC cannot arrest the former minister notwithstanding the advertised threats to do so.

The counsel, who defended the right of his client to enforce his fundamental rights, said that the suit challenging the EFCC had been filed by his chambers, adding that the law required that all parties should respect the legal process already started.

He stated that the EFCC could not attempt to undermine the course of justice in an administration that said it respected the rule of law.

He said in a statement: “The case was filed Monday, 15 December 2008, and service was effected on the EFCC the following day. In line with the judicial decisions in Obeya Memorial Hospital versus AG of the Federation and Ojukwu versus Governor of Lagos State.”

He also said that contrary to some media reports, in which the EFCC claimed ignorance of the suit by el-Rufai against it, the commission had been served the legal process.

He stated he had sent a letter to Mr. Tunde Ogunsakin, the EFCC’s director of operations, to notify the EFCC of the pending suit, and requested the commission to stay action pending its determination.

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