N170m FIRS Contract Fraud: EFCC, Police deny Zinox ‘clearance’

Leonard Stanley Ekeh

The Nigeria Police and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have denied any knowledge of the clearance reportedly granted top officials of Zinox Group and its affiliate, Technology Distribution, accused of complicity in a N170.3 million contract fraud scandal.

EFCC spokesperson, Tony Orilade, and his counterpart in the Police, Frank Mba, told PREMIUM TIMES in separate inquiries on Wednesday the reported clearance did not emanate from any of their agencies.

A fortnight ago, the reports about the controversial clearance appeared in several online platforms.

When contacted, EFCC spokesperson, Mr Orilade was categorical in his denial of the report.

“I don’t have that information,” he told our reporter on the telephone. Pressed for confirmation whether indeed the Commission issued the statement, Mr Orilade asked for time to crosscheck the information with his superiors before reverting later.

Later in his office in Abuja, the anti-graft agency spokesperson told our reporter the agency did issue any clearance for the accused officials.

“As a rule, EFCC does not give clearance to any person or group in cases under prosecution. It is only the courts that are authorized to do so after the matter has been diligently prosecuted and the accused person or group discharged and acquitted,” he said.

Police spokesperson, Frank Mba, who equally denied knowledge of Police clearance of the Zinox officials, said he was too busy focusing his attention on the success of the forthcoming elections.

He spoke on the eve of the just-concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections

“I am not aware of any such report (of clearance of Zinox officials), I can assure you. I don’t know anything about it, and I don’t have anything to do about it for now,” Mr Mba said on the telephone.

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“My focus right now is on the forthcoming elections. Honestly, I want to stay glued to the elections. I don’t want to be distracted. Other things that are auxiliary to the conduct of the election will have to wait. That’s my priority for now,” he said.

ZINOX VS PREMIUM TIMES

The computer firm is fighting a lawsuit by an Ibadan-based IT firm which says Zinox and its officials impersonated it and forged its documents to secure a federal contract with the Federal Inland Revenue Service worth N170.3 million.

In May 2017, Zinox filed a suit seeking to restrain PREMIUM TIMES and some of its officials from continuing to report the N170.3 million contract fraud scandal involving five of the company’s officials, including its top management.

Zinox had accused the newspaper’s editors of libeling it and its chairman, Stanley Leonard Ekeh, through the series of publications of the scam.

Apart from its demand for N2 billion in damages, Zinox asked for an order of perpetual injunction restraining PREMIUM TIMES from further publication, an apology as well as court directive for the removal from the newspaper’s website series of publications on the scandal.

But, PREMIUM TIMES responded with a counter application demanding N10 billion as damages against Zinox Technologies and its top officials, for attempting to frustrate the discharge of its role to the society.

On Thursday, Justice Oriji of the Federal High Court Apo dismissed the application by Zinox Technologies Limited seeking the order to stop further publication of reports against its officials.

The paper’s lawyer, Mmuoka Jude, said the publications claiming the computer firm had been cleared were designed to mislead the public and the court on the truth about the ongoing case against the officials.

“These clearly are flagrant violations of the spirit of the ongoing suit before the Federal High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Apo presided by Justice SC Oriji,” he said.

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