Alleged fraud cases: Governors-elect saved from prosecution until 2023
FEMI MAKINDE and ADELANI ADEPEGBA examine corruption cases against some governors-elect and the immunity which prevents the anti-graft agency from prosecuting them
Some newly-elected governors accused of financial impropriety will enjoy a temporary reprieve from prosecution. They will, along with other governors-elect, be inaugurated on May 29.
Before now, some of them had not only been charged to court with fraud but were remanded in prison custody and later granted bail.
The immunity which they now enjoy by virtue of the provisions of Section 308 of the constitution will put their trail in abeyance for as long as they remain in office.
Section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution specifically confers immunity on the President, the Vice President, governors and their deputies.
Adamawa State Governor-elect, Ahmadu Fintiri
One of the governors-elect with corruption cases is Ahmadu Fintiri. Fintiri, a former Speaker of the Adamawa State House of Assembly became the acting governor of the state following the impeachment of Governor Murtala Nyako and the alleged resignation of his deputy, Bala James Ngilari.
Fintiri acted briefly before the court ruled that Ngilari did not resign properly and was restored as the governor of the state.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission filed a money laundering charge involving N1.9bn against Fintiri. The anti-corruption agency arraigned him along with Mayim Constructions and Properties Limited (as the second defendant).
Fintiri pleaded not guilty and the judge ordered that he be remanded in Kuje Prison, Abuja, while his application for bail was heard at a later date.
Fintiri is not expected to be troubled by this case or any other for now as he settles down to the business of governance after May 29.
Bauchi State Governor-elect, Bala Mohammed
The Bauchi State Governor-elect, Mr Bala Mohammed, who is a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territories fought and defeated the incumbent Governor Mohammed Abubakar in a hotly contested contest.
Mohammed, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, did not only defeat Abubakar of the All Progressives Congress at the governorship poll, it is a temporary legal victory over an alleged fraud charge brought against him in court by the EFCC.
Mohammed was once remanded in the Kuje Maximum Prison, Abuja, over allegations of fraud after he had been arraigned by the EFCC on six counts for alleged abuse of office while he served as minister of the FCT. He was specifically charged before a high court for his alleged involvement in the collection of gratification to the tune of N550m.
He was also accused of failing to declare his assets. Although he pleaded not guilty, the presiding judge ruled that he be remanded in prison custody until his bail application was heard and decided.
The commission maintained that its preliminary investigation showed that the property in question was unlawfully acquired through corrupt practices by the former minister and his son while in office.
The property, according to the EFCC, included one mansion located at Sunrise Estate, Asokoro, Abuja; and three sets of four-bedroomed semi-detached duplex at Green Acres Estate, Apo-Dutse, Abuja.
Others are two sets of four-bedroomed fully-detached duplexes each with boys’ quarters on Gana Street, Maitama, Abuja, a short distance to Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja.
Also listed as part of the seized property was a four-bedroomed detached duplex with boys’ quarters located at 9 Platinum Luxury Home, White Estate, Asokoro, Abuja.
The governor-elect was standing trail alongside his son, Shamsudeen, who is facing 15 counts bordering on money laundering offence.
He was charged along with four companies – Bird Trust Agro Allied Ltd, Intertrans Global Logistics Ltd, Diakin Telecommunications Ltd & Bal-Vac mining Ltd.
He was alleged to have paid about N1.1bn for the purchase of houses without going through financial institutions, an act considered a breach of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended in 2012). His passport, initially seized, was released to him to travel for lesser hajj upon the ruling of the court.
But while his father is immune from prosecution with his new status, Shamusideen will continue to stand trail until he is either acquitted or convicted.
Aside from the new governors, who were under trial before coming under immunity, there are incumbent governors that got re-elected but still have a number of corruption allegations levelled against them. They will not appear in court until after the expiration of their second term.
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom
The EFCC has also linked Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State to an alleged fraud to the tune of N22bn. Ortom just won a re-election, which has extended his immunity against prosecution to the end of his tenure in 2023 or anytime he abdicates office.
The allegations against Ortom are contained in a report of an investigation which began in 2016 but was released in July 2018.
The anti-graft agency said one person identified as Oliver Ntom withdrew over N19bn from the account of the Bureau of Internal Affairs and Special Services based on the instructions of a permanent secretary.
The money, which was allegedly withdrawn under the pretext of security vote, was said to have been diverted while the memos written in respect of the withdrawal were reportedly destroyed.
Dave Umahi of Ebonyi
The EFCC is investigating Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Dave Umahi, in connection with the N400m arms funds which former President Goodluck Jonathan allegedly allocated to the PDP in Ebonyi State in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election. The funds were allegedly diverted by the governor.
Investigations by the EFCC revealed that the money was released by the Director of Finance, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Nenadi Usman, to the Ebonyi State chapter of the PDP for the 2015 presidential election.
The said funds were reportedly moved from a bank in Abakaliki on March 27, 2015, to another bank, where the governor’s brother, Maxwell Umahi, was said to have further moved N100m and N300m into the accounts of Brass Engineering & Construction Nigeria Limited and Osborn La-Palm Royal Resort respectively.
The EFCC, in August 2016, arrested three persons including the governor’s brother, Austin Umahi, and some people over the N400m slush funds.
Akwa Ibom State Governor, Emmanuel Udom
The anti-graft agency is investigating the Akwa Ibom Governor, Emmanuel Udom, and his cabinet members for allegedly withdrawing N1. 4bn from the state government’s accounts, but allegedly diverted for personal use.
The commission had indicted Udom, the Accountant General of the state, Uwem Andrew-Essien; Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan; one Margaret Thompson Ukpe and the Nigeria Bar Association’s President, Paul Usoro.
While the governor is covered by constitutional immunity, which just got a four-year extension with his re-election, Usoro has continued to appear in court over the charges.
The anti-graft agency in August, 2018 placed a freeze order on all bank accounts operated by the Akwa Ibom State Government. This led to a N50bn suit filed by the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State against the commission.
The EFCC said on March 10, 2016 that the sum of N700m was withdrawn in cash from the state’s Accountant General’s imprest account. It further stated that out of the said amount, N300m was deposited in cash to a Zenith Bank account belonging to Paul Usoro & Co on the 14th of March, 2016 without any contractual relationship with the Akwa Ibom State Government.
It, however, explained that Usoro, in his statement, said the money was his professional fee for handling the governor’s personal matter before the election tribunal.
Cross River Governor, Ben Ayade
Ayade is under a N2.7bn fraud probe by the EFCC following a petition filed by one Paul Ifere and other indigenes of the state. The EFCC had arrested Dr Frank Ayade, a younger brother to the governor over the matter.
The petition, titled, ‘The Fraud Called Calabar Garment Factory’, which was sent to the EFCC on May 12, 2016, accused the state government of spending N2.7bn on the factory through Frank who had no defined public role in the administration.
The younger Ayade was arrested and his Calabar residence searched in August 2016 as part of investigations into the allegations.
Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje
Ganduje is under probe for allegedly receiving millions of dollars in bribes from contractors handling various projects in Kano. There was a viral video showing the governor, allegedly stuffing millions of dollars into his babaringa pockets, which was alleged to be bribes received from contractors. The governor could be seen receiving wads of United States dollars from persons believed to be public works contractors.
‘Daily Nigerian’, an online publication, said it had up to 15 of such videos of Ganduje.
The videos were recorded in 2017 in what Daily Nigerian described as a sting operation aimed at beaming the spotlight on the governor’s alleged penchant for contract racketeering.
It was gathered that forensic analysis of the video showing Ganduje receiving bribe from a contractor indicated that the video was not digitally cloned as claimed by some of his loyalists. The commission could not prosecute Ganduje as his immunity just got renewed as the re-elected Kano State governor.
Rivers States Governor, Nyesom Wike
The governor is under an EFCC probe for alleged suspicious financial transactions by his administration to the tune of N117bn.
The anti-graft agency is probing alleged cash withdrawal of the N117bn through one of the first generation banks in three years.
It was gathered that investigations by the agency’s operatives uncovered how 45 different cheques written in the name of one person and amounting to N450m, were reportedly withdrawn in one day.
The Rivers State governor will also not be appearing in court to answer to these charges as his renewed tenure expires in 2023.