Twenty one senators, which represents about 21 per cent of the 109 lawmakers at the Upper legislative chamber, are currently facing criminal charges in the courts or are under intense investigation or interrogation by the security operatives or anti-graft agencies. The majority of the cases are related to allegations of corruption dogging them from their past. Amount involved in these corruption charges run into billions of naira the senators are alleged to have misappropriated. AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH writes
For the first time, serving senators are arrested, detained in the custody usually reserved for pedestal criminals and consequently docked. Interestingly, the first among equals or the “firsts’’ are cases of sitting senate president and deputy senate president standing trial for corruption, just as one of the senators was docked for allegedly supplying guns and ammunition to kidnappers and armed robbers. It is also pointer to note that a senator is facing extradition charges over drug trafficking offences
A cursory glance at the list of senators facing charges of forgery, drug offences, fraud, corruption, gun running confirm the brief narratives:
First in the list of the senators facing corruption charges is the Senate President, Bukola Saraki (APC, Kwara Central). Saraki is a two-term governor of Kwara State (2003 to 2011) and on completion of his tenure, he got elected to the Red Chamber. At the moment, he is a 2-term senator and the number one lawmaker in the country.
Saraki as the Senate President is the chairman of the National Assembly, piloting the affairs of the legislative arm of government; he sets the tone and direction for the arm.
While the Conduct Tribunal (CCT) discharged and acquitted him of the 13-count charge bordering on false assets declaration while he was the governor of Kwara state and his spouse, the Court of Appeal reinstated 3-count charge and discharged him of the rest. Both Saraki and the Federal Government have appealed against the Court of Appeal Judgement at the Supreme Court; that will delivered judgements in the cross-appeal on July 6.
It would be recalled that his colleagues, under the auspices of the erstwhile Unity Forum, led by Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara Central) had asked him to resign and face the charges. But the then Senate Leader Mohammed Ali Ndume and his supporters in the defunct Like Minds Group said he would resign only if he is found guilty after trial.
The Okoi-Obon-Obla-led presidential panel had on March 21, 2018, filed an ex parte motion seeking an order of interim forfeiture of the 22 houses pending the conclusion of the investigation of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekeremadu’s failure to declare the properties as part of his assets.
The panel, through its lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), had, in the ex parte motion, stated that “preliminary investigation by the applicant revealed that a prima facie case of a breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers has been made out against the respondent (Ekweremadu).”
The panel said Ekweremadu acquired the houses between 2007 and 2015, but failed to declare in June 2007 and June 2015, including nine in Abuja, two in London, the United Kingdom, eight in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate and three in Florida, the United States
Ahmed Sani Yarima
Senator Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara west) is a three-term senator and former governor of Zamfara State.
In January 2016, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) docked him for 19-count charge on corruption at the Zamfara State High Court in Gusau.
The commission accused him of diverting part of the N1 billion project funds for the repair of collapsed Gusau Dam and resettlement of the victims of flood to other purposes. The alleged offences were committed in 2006 and mainly in October and November of that year, according to ICPC. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Danjuma Goje (Gombe central) was the governor of Gombe State from 2003 to 2011. Goje, a second termer is the chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriations.
The senator, along with four others, is facing 18- count charge for conspiracy and fraudulent conversion of N25bn of state fund instituted by the EFCC.
Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu
Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa west) was the governor of Nasarawa State from 1999 to 2007 In Feb 2010, the EFCC arrested the lawmaker for allegedly misappropriating N15billion alongside 18 others.
He was subsequently arraigned on a 149-count charge of fraud to the tune of N15 billion, before Justice Ibrahim Buba, who was later replaced in the case by Justice Marcel Awokulehin.
The lawmaker and his co-accused denied all the charges and challenged the jurisdiction of the court to try the case, arguing that the money in question belong to the people of Nasarawa State and therefore does not fall under the purview of the Federal Government and the EFCC to investigate and prosecute.
The court, however, ruled against the accused persons and ordered them to face trial. The lawmaker and his co-accused subsequently appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeal sitting in Markudi, Benue State. The case is yet to be concluded.
Abdulaziz Murtala Nyako
Abdulaziz Murtala Nyako is the son of former Governor Murtala Nyako (Adamawa central).
In July 2015, the EFCC docked Abdulaziz and his father, the former governor of Adamawa State, at a Federal High Court in Abuja for cases of alleged corruption.
They were arraigned before Justice E. Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on a 37-count charge for criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering. Also charged with them, were Abubakar Aliyu and Zulkifikk Abba. They were accused of using five companies to siphon over N15billion at various times, between 2011 and 2013, from Adamawa State coffers. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Joshua Chibi Dariye
Joshua Chibi Dariye(Plateau central) was the governor of Plateau State from 1999 to 2003 and was reelected in 2003, before he was impeached in 2006.
Dariye has been standing trial since 2007 on a 23-count charge bordering on money laundering, abuse of office and corruption. He was accused of embezzling over N1.2billion ecological funds. He has since denied all the charges.
Senator Kashamu Buruji (Ogun east) has been declared wanted by the USA, over alleged drug-related offences, and the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had wanted to extradite him, acting on the request of the United State
In May 2015, a Federal High Court in Lagos stopped the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and nine others from arresting the senator for extradition to the United States over alleged drug-related offences.
Justice Okon Abang gave the restraining order in his verdict in a suit filed by Kashamu.
He based his order on an existing judgement of the court that was delivered on January 6, 2014, in which he restrained the IGP, SSS, NDLEA, NCS and the AGF from taking any step from arresting Kashamu on the strength of a petition linking him to a drug offence.
Godswill Obot Akpabio
Godswill Obot Akpabio (PDP, Akwa-Ibom North-West) is being investigated for corruption. He was twice invited by the EFCC last year, over allegation of N108bn fraud
The invitation was in connection with a petition by an Abuja-based lawyer and activist, Leo Ekpenyong, who accused the senator of looting the said amount belonging to the Akwa-Ibom government and called for his probe. The Minority Leader has, however, described the allegation as a falsehood bandied about by people with no idea about the workings of government. The anti-graft body in February 2017 impounded a school building in Akwa Ibom belonging to his wife pending completion of the investigation.
Bassey Akpan (Akwa Ibom North-east) served as commissioner for finance between August 7, 2007 and 2014 during the tenure of Godswill Akpabio as governor of Akwa Ibom State.
The presidency in a letter dated March 28, 2018 and signed by the Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Public Properties, Okoi Obono-Obla, requested the government of the United Kingdom (UK) to ban Akpan, from entering UK and any of its territories.
The panel claimed Akpan acquired numerous properties scattered within and outside Nigeria through dubious means while serving as commissioner for finance.
In the letter addressed to the UK Home Office Secretary, Hon. Amber Rudd, the presidency also called on the UK government to freeze all the bank accounts and assets associated with the senator.
Meanwhile, the federal government in a suit pending before Justice Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja, is seeking an interim order of forfeiture of undeclared asset linked to the senator.
According to the letter, “The circumstances under which senator Bassey Albert Akpan acquired all these landed properties in the United Kingdom are suspicious taking into account that for the past ten years he has always been a public officer and his legitimate earnings are far below the worth of the assets he has acquired in the United Kingdom. He is therefore by the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) a public officer. He is presently under investigation in Nigeria by this panel for illicit acquisition of assets and money laundering.
“In the light of the foregoing, I am writing to bring to the notice of the Home Office Secretary, the fraudulent acts of Mr. Bassey Albert Akpan which includes money laundering activities, assets stealing, forgery, tax evasion and extortion.
“It is kindly requested for the Rt. Hon. Home Office Secretary to use her powers to issue an Exclusion Decision on Mr. Bassey Albert Akpan from the United Kingdom and its territory pursuant to the Home Office.
On April 23, 2018, EFCC confirmed that Senator Peter Nwaboshi (Delta North, PDP) has been in its custody for days.
Nwaboshi’s arrest was connected to the purchase of a building owned by Delta State, “Guinea House” in Lagos state among other corrupt related issues. His travails with EFCC dates back to 2017 when he was accused of diverting a N1.2 billion loan from NEXIM Bank as a member of its board of directors.
The loan was granted to him by NEXIM Bank under the local industrial growth scheme in 2014. The money meant for the purchase of equipment and electrical materials was allegedly diverted to acquire properties in Lagos by the Senator.
Earlier in 2017, a Federal High Court in Lagos had ordered the temporary forfeiture of a 12-storey building belonging to the senator over an alleged contract scam of N1.5bn.
The police finally arrested Dino Melaye (Kogi west) on April 24, 2018 at the Zankili Hospital in Abuja and thereafter moved him to the National Hospital. The Police arraigned him at the Magistrate Court in Lokoja, Kogi state on May 3, 2018 which refused his bail application but asked him to be remanded in police custody till June 11.
The seven-count charge includes illegal possession of a firearm, criminal conspiracy and illegal transfer of firearms, among others.
The police have in their statement on April 27, 2018 said Melaye is liable to charges of ‘’Criminal Conspiracy and Unlawful Possession of Prohibited Firearms and other sundry offences based on the confessions of two suspected kidnappers and armed robbers namely, Kabiru Saidu a.k.a. Osama and Nuhu Salisu a.k.a. Small.
After Kabiru Saidu, a.k.a Osama, and Nuhu Salisu, aka Small, were arrested at Ogojueje in Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi on January 19, 2018, they confessed to the police that Senator Melaye hired them to cause unrest in the state ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The criminal suspects revealed that the lawmaker handed them a bag containing one AK-47 rifle, two pump action guns and the sum of N430,000 to recruit hardened troublemakers and unleash mayhem in Kogi.
Jonah David Jang
The EFCC had on May 7, 2018 served Senator Jonah Jang a trial notice on 12-count charge, bordering on alleged misappropriation of over N6.3 billion. Jang served as Plateau State Governor from2007 to 2015.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the cash was embezzled about two months to the end of his tenure as governor in 2015. But no date has been fixed for his arraignment. It added that he allegedly embezzled some special funds released to the state by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“Jang allegedly pocketed N2 billion released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for disbursement to small and medium enterprises in the state under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Funds (MSMEDF) just a month before the expiration of his tenure in April 2015’’, EFCC alleged.
Magatakarda Wamakko and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso
By April 18 this year, EFCC indicated that it has begun investigation into alleged theft of N18.08 billion of Sokoto and Kano states funds by Senators Magatakarda Wamakko and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso respectively. Wamakko and Kwankwaso were former governors of Sokoto and Kano states respectively.
Indication however emerged that while Wamakko is being investigated for allegedly diverting N15 billion Sokoto State funds, Kwankwaso is under the anti-graft agency’s radar for alleged embezzlement of N3.08 billion belonging to the 44 council areas of Kano State. The investigation of the duo is said to follow petitions separately forwarded to the commission
David Mark, a fifth –term senator, is one of the few Nigerians listed in #PanamaPapers, the report that reveals identities of clients of the most secretive companies in the world, registered through the law firm of Mossack Fonseca.
On December 14, 2017, EFCC invited him to make statements to the commission on how several billions meant for projects at the national assembly were shared between him and a few others. He was released to go home after the interrogation, expected to return after the holidays
In September, Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIPRPP) issued a 21-day notice to Mark to quit the property or “show cause” why the Federal Government should not “enforce the recovery of the property for public good”. The government said the acquisition of the 1.6 hectare property by Mark in 2011 was illegal as it was not reflected in the Federal Government’s official gazette as required.
The Federal Government later argued before a Feral High Court in Abuja that the house is a national monument not meant to be acquired by an individual. In the same vein, FG argued that the sale of the property was not conducted through competitive bidding and transparent process, contrary to the provisions of Section 15 (1) of the Procurement Act, 2007. Mark has also approached the court to quash the actions of the body.
Senator Akume George (Benue) was Benue State Governor from 1999 to 2007. In Ribadu’s September 28, 2006 report at the senate plenary, he alleged that Akume barged into the office of the State’s Commissioner of Police, beat up EFCC operatives and confiscated documents relating to his investigations for corruption. However, Akume’s case file with the EFCC shows that the petition against him was filed by Abubakar Tsav, retired police commissioner, on July 20, 2006. The case was investigated for a long time during Akume’s tenure with the commission inviting several officials of his administration to Abuja. The state government actually went to court seeking a declaration that the EFCC was an illegal body, but the case made no headway. Perhaps, for want of evidence or otherwise, he has never been arraigned by any anti-graft agencies.
Senator Stella Oduah (Anamabra North) was subjected to eight hours of interrogation at the EFCC office in Abuja onFebruary 26, 2018.
Oduah, who had refused to honour the EFCC invitations for nearly three years, arrived at the office of the anti-graft agency around 11am and answered several questions until 7pm. The quiz borders on diversion of billions of naira when she was a minister under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The former minister first came under investigation in 2013 after a human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), wrote a petition against her for allegedly approving the purchase of two BMW vehicles worth N225m by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority in breach of the Public Procurement Act. She was also accused of diverting N3.9bn out of the N9.4bn meant for the installation of security devices at 22 airports, an allegation she has since denied.
In August 2015, rather than honour an EFCC invitation, the lawmaker filed a suit against the EFCC police and the Attorney General of the Federation asking the court to stop them from “inviting, arresting, investigating or prosecuting her.
Adamu Aliero (Kebbi) was the Governor of Kebbi State between May 1999 and May 2007. Between December 2006 and August 2008, the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission received three petitions asking the anti-graft agencies to investigate Alierio over N10.2bn fraud. It was, however, learnt that the allegations were not investigated.
But following an ex-parte application by an indigene of the state, Alhaji Sani Dododo, for an order of mandamus compelling EFCC and ICPC to investigate the allegations, Justice Adamu Bello summoned Aliero to appear before it. The judge also summoned the two anti-graft agencies to explain why they failed in their statutory duties to investigate Aliero for alleged fraud. However, he is yet to stand trial for any corruption charges.
Corruption charges have been levelled against Senator Sam Egwu (Ebonyi north). Egwu, who was said to have left a debt profile of N10bn for his successor allegedly misappropriated close to N80bn while in office as governor between of Ebonyi State between 1999 and 2007.
Theodore Orji (Abia), was Abia state governor from 2007 to 2015 during his first tenure as governor, there were petitions to the ICPC to investigate Orji for money laundering allegations brought against him. Since Orji could not be prosecuted at the time, ICPC detained the Accountant-General of the state, Mrs. Bridget Onyema, for two days and later granted her administrative bail.
The arrest was in connection with a series of petitions sent to the commission to investigate the whereabouts of about N1.9632bn allegedly transferred under the guise of travel estacodes to the governor, his deputy, their wives and families, as well as 23 other persons who swelled the governor’s entourage to the World Igbo Congress held in Tampa Bay, Florida, the United States, in 2008.
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