Documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES have shown how the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Lamorde, wrote to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, seeking the disqualification of the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Abubakar Audu, from contesting the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
Mr. Audu won the primary election of the APC on August 30 amidst calls by some Nigerians that fielding him as candidate was a negation of the ruling party’s anti-graft war.
In a letter dated September 21, 2015, with reference number EFCC/EC/SGF/03/59, and titled “F.R.N Vs Abubakar Audu & 1 other Charge No: FCT/CR/115/ 2013”, the EFCC chairman wrote to the secretary to the government of the federation reminding him that Mr. Audu was standing trial for corruption.
“The candidate was arraigned by the Commission for abuse of office, theft of public funds and money laundering during his tenure as Executive Governor of Kogi State between 1999 and 2003 at both Kogi High Court, Lokoja in 2006 and the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Apo Abuja in 2013,” Mr. Lamorde wrote.
“The Lokoja case was stalled for six years on the account of frivolous interlocutory applications by the accused person, which has taken us twice to the Supreme Court and eventually decided in the commission’s favour on 23rd November 2012.
“The trial effectively continued in 2013 with the filing of fresh charges in Abuja. Eight prosecution witnesses have so far given evidence and 166 exhibits tendered at the proceedings, while the case adjourned till 14th October 2015 for continuation of trial.
“We are genuinely concerned that the trial will be suspended for another four years if Prince Audu emerges as Kogi State Governor, similar to the situation of Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State.
“While not being unmindful of the constitutional presumption of innocence of all accused persons until proven guilty, we are nevertheless greatly concerned that swearing in of another accused person as Executive Governor in Nigeria may not be in consonance with the current anti-corruption policy of the new administration.”
In conclusion, Mr. Lamorde cautioned that allowing Mr. Audu to contest on the ruling party’s ticket might undermine the administration’s fight against corruption, especially in the eyes of the world.
“This may negatively impact our perception by the international community and give rise to scepticism and even cynicism,” the EFCC boss wrote.
Mr. Lamorde’s letter appeared a re-enactment of former EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu’s advisory letter to political parties in 2007, seeking the disqualification of some political office seekers for their involvement in corruption.
But upon receipt of Mr. Lamorde’s advisory letter, the SGF, Babachir Lawan, immediately wrote to the national secretariat of the APC the following day, urging it to take “necessary action”.
In a letter dated September 22, 2015, referenced SGF.30/S.11/T, the SGF said “I wish to forward the attached document from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on the above subject matter for your information and action”.
Obasanjo cautioned Audu on acquisition of properties
In a similar charge on corruption against the Kogi APC governorship candidate, former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote to Mr. Audu on October 5, 2001, cautioning him on some acquisitions of prime landed properties abroad while in office as governor.
Mr. Obasanjo confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES on Friday that he actually wrote the letter to Mr. Audu, and that the copy of the letter obtained by this newspaper was genuine.
PREMIUM TIMES reliably gathered that the former president also wrote to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission, and the then National Security Adviser, NSA, Aliyu Gusau, directing them to investigate Mr. Audu in relation to foreign assets acquisition as a sitting governor.
Mr. Obasanjo based his advice to the ICPC and the NSA on a notification he got from the British Home Office.
While responding to PREMIUM TIMES’ question on his various corruption cases, Mr. Audu said in a recent interview that the matter was before the court, and that no case had so far been established against him.
“This is a matter that is already before the court, and it will therefore be a contempt of court for me to disclose what happened in the court.
“But as far as I am concerned, they have not established any prima facie case against me in the past 12 years,” Mr. Audu said.
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lai Mohammed, said he was not aware of the issue as the letter was not addressed to him.
He explained that he was not aware that the issue was discussed at any meeting of the National Working Committee.
The National Secretary of the APC, Mai Mala-Buni, neither answered several telephone calls made to him nor responded to a text message seeking to know the action his party took regarding the letter from the EFCC cautioning against fielding Mr. Audu as governorship candidate.