The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is the agency of government aimed in combating financial and economic crimes and also bringing to book offenders of the law, if proven guilty by the court of law. MUBARAK UMAR writes.
The Commission is empowered to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalise economic and financial crimes and is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes.
As a result of this, especially under the present administration, they have been able to make a lot of arrests and prosecute a lot of victims in the court of law with many of them declared guilty of embezzlement. But a few have also been declared not guilty by the court of law, an example being Philemon Ibrahim Gora, the owner of Cashflowabi Network Ltd, whose account, containing N12 billion remains frozen at Diamond Bank. All efforts by the victim and account holder to get the account unfrozen have proved abortive.
Cashflow, is a private initiative that is focused on the empowerment of the less privileged, retirees and low income earners. Some examples of their projects are the construction of houses, funding of businesses on a small scale, payment of tuition fees of children of their clients etc. But all these was brought to a halt when the Cashflow account in Diamond Bank was frozen in July, 2012 and it remains so till date despite a court order to the bank to re-open the account.
In an effort to find a lasting solution to the issue, the House of Representatives had, last week, invited Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the N12 billion virtual currency scheme involving 60,000 Nigerian investors.
The chairman, House Committee on Public Petition, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, issued a directive at the end of the investigative hearing on the formal request made by Philemon Ibrahim Gora, and also instructed Ibrahim Idris, Inspector General of Police, to appear before the committee on 30th May, 2017.
Gora alleged that Diamond Bank illegally closed down the cash flow account and withheld funds worth about N12 billion, deposited in the account.
He complained that he was informed that the bank account of the scheme had been frozen on the orders of EFCC and CBN, when he wanted to refund his clients. He said that he brought the matter before the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), after he had been arrested several times and suffered depression. According to him, clients are hunting them as a result of the matter and one of his staff had been sentenced to seven years jail term due to the crisis.
Meanwhile, when she was before the Committee, Georgina Nwankwo, CBN Executive Director acknowledged receipt of the petition in February 2014, and also noted that the victim was advised to resolve the matter with his banker, because the apex bank can only intervene if both parties were unable to come to a reasonable conclusion on the matter.
“When a matter is in court, we don’t interfere. According to the petition we got from him, the court asked them to go back and sit to see how the matter can be resolved. And since the matter was before the court, we couldn’t do anything. And it’s unfortunate that the EFCC, the Police and Diamond Bank are not here to tell us what they have done with the judgment of the court.” Nwankwo said.
The representative of the CBN who informed the Committee that there was a request listing over 400 illegitimate fund managers in the system of which cash flow was one, also mentioned that the apex bank, at no time, gave a command for the money to be frozen as assumed.
Nkem-Abonta, while commenting on the issue, condemned various impunity being propagated within the banking sector.
According to him, “There are requests before us and others we have dealt with, involving, First Bank, Skye Bank and others, who complained of unlawful deductions from their accounts and forceful seizure of money. The CBN has not been able to respond to petitions on these matters.”
Unoma Ndulue, Diamond Bank Team Legal, North, maintained that the fund in question is a virtual fund. A Crypto-currency that is traded online. She claimed that there was no money in the account.
According to her, Diamond Bank, confirmed that they had only about N300,000 which was handed over to Gora’s lawyer, the late James Ocholi.
The chair asked the CBN if the petitioner was making any sense, since the CBN itself had in the media encouraged Nigerians to go into Crypto currency investment.
When the committee enquired if the bank would lose if the account is unfrozen, Ndulue, who said no, maintained that the bank cannot afford to open the account because of the risk of cyber-attack.
While ruling, Nkem-Abonta explained that the Committee would choose another location within the House to hold a private meeting between the management of Diamond Bank, the EFCC, the CBN and the petitioner to resolve the matter.
Some of the clients of Cashflow also voiced their opinions on the matter.
Mr. Amos Sunday from Abuja, is a client of Cashflow who never dreamt of opening an account with Diamond Bank but with the coming of Cashflow, he was able to open two Accounts. According to him, “I am so disappointed with the trend of events leading to the freezing of more than 10 accounts of Cashflow Network. To me, l have lost confidence in the bank.”
Mr. Nathan Ibrahim from Kebbi State, who is also a cashflow client, has been a great beneficiary of Cashflow Abi Network since 2011 without having any default with the company until 2012 when he injected his whole gratuity for his retirement and fixed it for one year to enable him sponsor his two children schooling in Ghana.
“I was mandated by Dr. Philemon Gora to open account with Diamond Bank to qualify me to do any transaction with his company and I opened two accounts; a savings and domiciliary accounts. Unfortunately, the bank being ungrateful and diabolical conspired with EFCC and CBN and illegally froze all the accounts of Cashflow Abi Network without his own knowledge with wrong allegation that Cashflow is illegal, which is a total lie! For this diabolical conspiracy from the bank (Diamond Bank), I am unable to sponsor my two children from Zenith university in Ghana which has really affected me and my entire family as a whole, but I am still praying to God for more grace for Dr. Philemon Gora to take courage with all the allegations laid on him by the bank.
“Also, I am still pleading with our law makers to kindly look into his case and to tamper justice with mercy for the sake of 60,000 clients that injected their monies in the accounts of Diamond Bank, to unfreeze his accounts to enable him pay us our monies because most of us are dying.”
Mr. Abah Peter from Kaduna State is another Cashflow client who has been a beneficiary since 2011. “I deposited 2 million and I had been benefiting every month of my due date for over a year, not until 2012 July to be precise, when the alert stopped coming. Shortly before it stopped, my late father invested N3.5million after receiving his gratuity, waiting to start receiving his ROI the next month but unfortunately, it didn’t come anymore. We later heard that Cashflow account has been frozen by EFCC and that shock led to his death. Dr. Gora has never defaulted ever since I invested into the scheme. We have been following the case at the federal high court 6 led by Justice Ademola, the case lasted for another one year and at the end, Dr. Philemon Gora, the CEO Cashflow Abi Network Ltd won the case. The court gave another order to Diamond bank to unfreeze the account but till now, nothing has happened. Over 60,000 persons just like me are also victims; we pray that the house of representative will help us to gain our lives and families restored.”
Mrs. Patricia Ibrahim another client of Cashflow Abi Network also has this to say. “Diamond bank has injured my life so badly by blocking Cashflow account on 27th July. My husband and I invested our life savings in Cashflow account with the expectation of building a house and for me to start a business since the Nigerian government couldn’t give me job to do. My life was frustrated to the extent that I was about committing suicide since I don’t have any hope to help my family except if the Cash flow account is re-opened. If they refuse to open the account this time, I don’t have any hope, I am ready to die. Many widows and orphans are crying because of Diamond Bank.
According to an anonymous client, “It’s so disappointing that there is no justice for the common man in this country. I have never heard it anywhere in the world that a court order is being disobeyed, only in Nigeria. It is only in Nigeria that the rich and the mighty will take by force what belongs to the poor and masses and nothing happens.”
“The blood of some of Cashflow clients that have died as a result of this, will be on your head.”
Since the inception of Cashflow, before the very day you short it down in July, Dr. Philemon Gora had never ceased to pay any anybody. From nowhere, you came and shut down the joy and smile of the masses.”
“The Almighty God is watching you and when it’s time for my father in heaven to act, there will be earthquake in EFCC, Diamond bank and in the lives of all that partook in this evil act.”