By Tayo Joseph Lagos, Nigeria
The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been drawn to a rather salacious news report published in Vanguard and The Punch newspapers of May 2, 2017.
The report published under two different headlines: “DSS accuses anti-graft agency of protecting Jonathan’s former aide”, and “Jonathan’s wanted aide being protected by govt. agency –DSS”, contained allegations that an anti-graft agency which is purportedly investigating Mr. Kingsley Kuku, a former Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, on the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, is in reality shielding him from the law. The phantom claim is made more ludicrous by the fact that it is attributed to some unnamed sources in the Department of State Services, DSS.
The EFCC ordinarily ought not to dignify the reports with a response given that it was not directly named by the ghost sources. However, the stories are dripping with innuendos that left little to the imagination regarding the agency under reference. While Vanguard stayed within the script of the game of ostrich handed to it by the purveyors of the unsubstantiated report, The Punch took a further step to identify the EFCC as the agency that is known to be investigating Kuku. Punch’s allusion is a fact known to everybody but the authors of the malicious story were either scared of the Commission or too embarrassed by their infantile gambit to name the EFCC.
For the avoidance of doubt, EFCC is investigating the Amnesty Office managed by Kuku. The Commission was compelled to declare him wanted in July 2015 after he failed to honour an invitation sent to him for interrogation on July 28, 2015. Rather than appear before the team investigating the allegations of fraud against him, he sent a letter, through his counsel, Karina Tunyan, claiming that he “is currently in the United States of America to keep an appointment with his doctors”, with a promise to appear on September 30, 2015. He never did, and his last known place of abode has remained the US, a different territorial jurisdiction.
In February 2016, in a bid to forestall his arrest by the EFCC, Kuku approached a Federal High Court in Lagos, seeking to stop the agency from arresting him on his possible return to Nigeria. The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, dismissed his application as lacking in merit, and upheld the statutory powers of the EFCC to investigate him.
It must be stated unequivocally that the EFCC has no personal interest, or business with Kuku, other than the fact that he is a fugitive, who is wanted by the Commission to stand trial in Nigeria. The allegation in the reports that “the agency is in criminal connivance with fugitive Kingsley Kuku” is a blatant lie. Also untrue and fallacious is the claim that the EFCC is “directly and brazenly facilitating the concealment of the looted several billions of naira”.
After he spurned the Commission’s invitation, Kuku’s aides who are believed to have assisted him in perpetrating various acts of corruption were arrested, questioned and charged to court. Henry Ugbolue and Lawrence Pepple, close aides to Kuku, are facing charges before a Federal Capital Territory High Court Abuja.
An agency which is on the lookout for Kuku and had docked his aides on corruption charges cannot be the same agency that would be accused of offering assistance to the same suspect or doing his bidding by harassing his adversaries. So the so-called cover up is deliberately concocted tissue of lies, apparently aimed at impugning the good image of the EFCC
The EFCC is inclined to believe that this campaign of misinformation has no official endorsement of the DSS. Otherwise it should have no problem owning its report by stating it openly as it has done in recent times. It is the Commission’s hunch that someone is dropping the name of “unnamed DSS Sources” to give a veneer of credibility to a lie and set both agencies on a collision course.
This seemingly concocted report is the latest in a series of orchestrated campaign of calumny against the Commission by shadowy forces that are obviously envious of the success of the EFCC, especially at a time, when the anti-graft agency enjoys the status of the shining light of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s war against corruption.
Furthermore, the allegation that a raid on the house of a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Chibudom Nwuche, was carried out “based on the instruction of Kuku” is nothing but the figment of the imagination of the authors and their “sources”. How logical is it that the Commission would be taking instruction from a man it has declared wanted and who has remained a fugitive? The nation should be saved this “Dugbe Intelligence”, as the EFCC is fired only by professionalism and would not be sucked into the apparent political battle between Nwuche and Kuku.
Nwuche is perfectly aware of the outcome of the Commission’s investigation as it affects him and it will serve his interest to direct his energy to dealing with the other issue of alleged illegal possession of firearms currently being investigated by the Nigeria Police.