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EFCC beams searchlight on Enugu NGO

Posted by By Philip Nwosu and Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye on 2005/07/07 | Views: 281 |

EFCC beams searchlight on Enugu NGO

After dealing with a traditional ruler in Enugu State, who allegedly duped an American senator, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has beamed its searchlight on a Non-Governmental Organisation that prompted it to arrest the ruler.

After dealing with a traditional ruler in Enugu State, who allegedly duped an American senator, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has beamed its searchlight on a Non-Governmental Organisation that prompted it to arrest the ruler.

The NGO, which was identified as New Citizens Forum, had petitioned the EFCC concerning the royal father who allegedly defrauded the senator from Bahamas, in the USA, to the tune of $1.4 million dollars.

Daily Sun gathered that the NGO had named three persons who had worked with the suspect in the shady deal. After the arrest of the man, the NGO had reportedly told the EFCC to forget about other suspects, saying that it had ‘cleared’ them.

This made detectives at the EFCC smell a rat. One of them said: "We knew something was amiss when New Citizens Forum asked us to ignore the other suspects it had initially mentioned. All of our efforts to arrest them proved abortive as the NGO thwarted our efforts by informing the suspects that we were in town. Some other persons in Enugu also alleged that the group was using the name of EFCC to collect money from people."

While the EFCC was making efforts to ensure a recovery of the fund, the matter had a new twist as the senator, Mr. Shaarlene Lightbourne, accused the EFCC director of operations, of allegedly collecting a bribe to the tune of $3 million. The NGO also claimed that EFCC had released the traditional ruler's passports and allowed him to travel to London.

In an e-mail to the EFCC Chief, Lightbourne said: "I am surprised that after the great enthusiasm with which you approached me in December 2004 and solicited my help in apprehending and prosecuting Mr. Mustapha, it appears that your interest has gone completely cold."
He later retraced his steps and apologised to the organisation when he realised the truth. He said in another e-mail that he had discovered the truth from his attorney, adding: "I am sorry about the misinformation and regret any inconvenience this might have caused you."

EFCC director said he found the allegations absurd and ridiculous. "The amount they are saying that I was bribed with is even more than the amount we are holding the suspect for. It does not make sense. If the suspect had that amount of money, he would have paid since. I also find the allegation demeaning because I don’t talk to suspects. I wonder why the people making these allegations cannot come out to identify themselves instead of hiding under a name."

He further said that the NGO was ignorant of the operations of the commission."Yes, we allowed Madu travel to London to source funds. How will Madu pay the money if we lock him up? He made an undertaking that if we allowed him travel, he would dispose some of his property to get some money which he did and return to Nigeria within a stipulated time. Immediately he came back to Nigeria, he paid 4,700 pounds in addition to the $11,000 he paid initially."

The traditional ruler said that he had no cause to bribe the EFCC, saying that those peddling the rumour were trying to jeopardise his case. He told Daily Sun that he never committed the offence, but that some persons had actually approached him to use his account to transfer money, which he obliged and that he never knew it would result in this.

Apart from this, he said that the kingship tussle in the community, which had taken a deadly dimension, had prompted some of his opponents to begin to falsify facts in order to stop his coronation as the Igwe of Achi.

He said while denying allegations that he has given the EFCC money to turn the case in his favour, "I have told you what they want to do. They want to spoil the case right from the people that are handling this matter. They want to make me enemy of all of them. That is exactly what they are doing now. These are the same people that came to stop my installation.

"I want you people to check them, see who and who are these members of New Citizens Forum, because I know that their leader is not genuine. You need to find out these New Citizens People. Who are their members and sponsors, what are the occupations of the members?"

Speaking with Daily Sun, the president of the New Citizen Forum, Mr. Frank Ezeona said that the allegations were frivolous insisting that their involvement in ensuring that the alleged 419 syndicate of Igwe Madu was smashed was for the good of Nigeria.
He said that the New Citizen Forum as a non-governmental organisation does not collect money from anybody to conduct its programmes, adding that the move was a patriotic one spurred by the deplorable image of the country abroad.

"We got involved in this when the FBI came to train some police officers who were Nigerians and my wife who is a police officer was involved and she told me how the FBI and Americans look at Nigeria, then I said this must stop and that was how we went out to form the organisation," he added.
Ezeona narrated how the traditional ruler was tracked down, saying that it was the New Citizens Forum that took the EFCC to Enugu to effect the arrest.

"I took the EFCC to Enugu to arrest Igwe Madu and when he was arrested, he was crying, I have evidence to prove this. I tracked the Igwe in the hotel, the EFCC did not pay us a dime and we did not ask them for any money. We do this to ensure a good image for Nigeria."

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