The highest Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has accused the Federal Government of engineering the ordeal of former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu in the United Kingdom (UK).
Ohanaeze was reacting to the Friday ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja ordering interim forfeiture of 40 properties allegedly linked to Ekweremadu. But in a statement issued, the National President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike, said it was immoral to attack a man whose hands were tied to his back and unable to defend himself.
Ohanaeze Youth Council bemoaned what it regarded as a pattern of persecution and humiliation of people from one part of the country by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), emphasising it was time the monopoly of the agency by one part of country is ended through the immediate appointment of a new EFCC Chairman from the southern part of Nigeria.
The Ohanaeze youths said: “The ex-parte interim assets forfeiture order by Federal High Court, Abuja, is to say the least most cruel and whoever filed that suit at this time that Ekweremadu is incarcerated and unable to defend himself has no conscience or slightest regard for the cardinal pillars of law and justice, particularly the principle of “audi alteram partem” (“let the other side be heard as well”).
“This has also proved our suspicion all along that some highly placed personalities were behind Ekweremadu’s UK ordeal”.
Ohanaeze wondered when it became a crime under Nigerian laws to own properties or be involved in properties business, especially since the EFCC could not pin any crime on him for over six years that they have been on Ekweremadu’s matter.
The statement, among others, read: “Ekweremadu’s name was not mentioned anywhere in all the scandals supposedly uncovered by the EFCC since the All progressives Congress came to power.
“Moreover, EFCC’s claim that its investigators traced to Ekweremadu properties that he had dutifully declared in his assets declaration is ridiculous and not different from Mungo Park travelling thousands from Scotland to discover the River Niger.”
“With court’s direction to the EFCC to publish the said properties in national dailies for any interested persons to show cause why they should not be permanently forfeited to the government, how is Ekweremadu, who is in custody in the UK access documents or properly brief his lawyers to show that the said properties were not proceeds of crime?”
“EFCC’s action, therefore, conforms to the worrisome pattern of assets stripping of southern businesses and individuals because having failed to establish any case against the lawmaker for the past six years, the EFCC saw his UK ordeal over the daughter’s health as an opportunity to strip him of his assets and rubbish his reputation, knowing he is not in a position to defend himself. Is that what our anti-corruption and justice system are about?”.
The Ohanaeze Youth Council also accused the EFCC of working with Ekweremadu’s prosecutors in the UK to keep him permanently in custody to, among other things, perfect their agenda to destroy the lawmaker economically, politically, and socially.
“It will interest Nigerians to know that in a bid to please the London Metropolitan Police, which has been its benefactor since inception; in a bid to confiscate Ekweremdu’s assets; and for whatever promises of ensuring they secure their future outside EFCC after President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the EFCC penned a malicious letter for the London Metropolitan Police, which the prosecutors tendered against Ekweremadu’s bail in London court back in July.
“In the said letter, the EFCC equally assured the Metropolitan Police that they would move against Ekweremadu’s assets immediately, all in the bid to help the Metropolitan Police present him as a man of means and a flight risk.”
“How do the EFCC and London Metropolitan Police explain that Senator Ekweremadu’s matter could not be taken on Monday the 31st October as earlier scheduled and that other days proposed by the Senator’s lawyers were rejected, except Monday the 7th of November, but only for an ex-parte order to be sought and obtained on Friday 4th October, obviously to be weaponised against the prospects of Ekweremadu’s bail on Monday 7th?”
“Why is it so auspicious for the EFCC and their London collaborators to orchestrate Ekweremadu’s continuous detention as against allowing him to defend himself in line with the law?”
“Why is the EFCC so bent on continually infusing themselves into the case of Ekweremadu’s daughter’s health with extraneous issues?”
“Unable to charge Ekweremadu since 2016, shouldn’t an institution truly fighting corruption have demanded for his repatriation so that he could personally answer for himself in Nigerian courts where these matters are alleged to have taken place?” they asked.
The Ohanaeze youth council said it was quite unimaginable that a UK parliamentarian or US congressman could be treated this way by a UK or US agency over a yet to be proven case of conspiracy to traffic a person.
“Their governments would usually insist on the innocence of even ordinary citizens and do all they can to secure their freedom. Even the Nigerian government did exactly the same for Jigawa State-born Zainab Aliyu, who was caught with banned drugs in Saudi Arabia. If the Nigerian Government will not intervene for Ekweremadu as it did for Zainab, why should its agency be working hand-in-glove with Ekweremadu’s prosecutors to keep him continually in detention without bail or accelerated trial?”
“From Nuhu Ribadu to Farida Waziri, to Ibrahim Lamorde, to Ibrahim Magu, and now Abdulrasheed Bawa, it has become clear that the monopoly of the leadership of the EFCC by people from the northern part of the country since inception has resulted in the corrosive deployment of the agency against the people from the southern part of the country.”
“Could the EFCC have taken this unpatriotic and wicked step against a northern senator fighting a battle of his life, fighting for his reputation, fighting for his freedom and for the survival of a very sick child in a foreign land?”
“We therefore hold that now time to end this wicked monopoly at the EFCC and for the south to head the EFCC,” they said.