The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been granted an order to freeze three bank accounts belonging to the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudasiru Obasa.
The EFCC, in a matter filed at the federal high court, Lagos, with suit number; FHC/L/CS/1069/2020, sought an ex-parte order to freeze Mr Obasa’s three bank accounts with Standard Chartered Bank pending the conclusion of an ongoing investigation into the allegations of diversion of funds, abuse of office and money laundering levelled against him.
Mr Obasa was also grilled on Thursday at the Lagos office of the anti-graft agency over the allegations.
Various other officials of the assembly had also appeared before the agency at different times in the past few weeks.
PREMIUM TIMES obtained the certified true copy of the ruling which was issued on September 15, signed by the court’s registrar, Adebimpe Oni.
The account details as contained in the order include a United States dollar account with number 001852963; current account (0018552956) and a savings account (5002349821).
The anti-graft agency said it filed the matter “Pursuant to section 44 (2) (K) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and section 26, 29, and 34 (1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004, and under the inherent jurisdiction of this honourable court.”
The EFCC in June 2016 received a letter from the National Crime Agency (NCA), an anti-crime organisation of the United Kingdom (UK), signaling some suspicious transactions by Mr Obasa.
The NCA’s new liaison officer, Karl Holmes, who confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES, said the agency had already taken the appropriate step, so he would not want to comment further on the matter “for diplomatic reasons.”
Responding to NCA’s signal, EFCC charged its intelligence and special operation section (ISOS) to investigate the matter. The investigations, this newspaper learnt, revealed a total of 64 bank accounts linked to Mr Obasa in different banks.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the EFCC also made other discoveries including the use of companies that share affiliations with the speaker to win contracts from various Lagos State’s ministries and agencies.
For instance, De-Kingrun Multipurpose Nigeria Limited, which has Mr Obasa’s father, Suleiman Obasa; one of his wives, Busayo, and children – Abdul Ganiyu, Hamzat and AbdulRahaman – as subscribers, won contracts from various ministries.
Also, King Horse International Limited, which was awarded some contracts, is owned by Mr. Obasa’s biological sister, Bukola Olaleye. Ms Olaleye was an official of the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) until 2019 when she was moved to the protocol unit of the office of the speaker.
But the speaker has consistently denied all the allegations, describing them as the handiwork of his detractors.
Earlier before the EFCC summon, Mr Obasa’s spokesperson, Tolani Abatti, told this newspaper that there was no link between him and some of the companies listed.
He added that the De-Kingrun Multipurpose Nigeria Limited is a family business enterprise that had been in existence long before he became the speaker.
“So he does not hold any position either executive or non-executive in the company,” Mr Abatti said, adding that, “The fact that the speaker is related to those running De-Kingrun Multipurpose Nigeria Limited, does not in any way violate the provision of the procurement laws or cause any clash of interest since he is not in any way involved in the day-to-day running of the company. The company is owned and run by his relatives. And what the procurement law is all about is fairness to all concerned in the course of awarding any contracts,” Mr Abatti said.
He also denied that Mr. Obasa has 64 bank accounts, saying all that he said were based on his discussions with his principal.
Petitions against Obasa
Following the perceived delay in the EFCC’s investigations, various organisations, including Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), this year submitted fresh petitions against the speaker.
The fresh petitions were then referred to the economic governance unit of the anti-corruption agency, taking over from the intelligence and special operation section (ISOS).
Meanwhile, a nine-member probe committee headed by Victor Akande, representing Ojo state constituency 1, was also set up by the state assembly. But the committee within one week submitted its report, absolving the speaker of any irregularity.
However, the chairman of HEDA, Olanrewaju Suraj, said the outcome of the investigative committee “appears destined to exonerate him (the speaker) from raging allegations of graft,” adding that the outcome of the panel was predictable.
He said; “Considering the inherent fundamental flaws and procedural defects in the procedure, appointment of the committee, process of invitation and the shenanigans of the committee, we have decided that the committee does not deserve a response from our organisation.”
But the then spokesperson for the assembly, the late Tunde Braimoh, defended the house, saying the committee members were duly nominated, and that the desire to meet the one-week deadline informed its decision to sit on a weekend.
But on Thursday, Mr Obasa spent hours at the EFCC’s office defending the series of allegations leveled against him.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt through reliable sources that apart from the bank accounts to be frozen, the EFCC has also prepared a fresh application to seek a temporary forfeiture order on some properties linked to Mr Obasa.
Obasa reacts to EFCC questioning
After his questioning by the EFCC Thursday, Mr Obasa said he had nothing to hide.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission invited me today (Thursday). As a responsible citizen and lawmaker, I honoured the invitation. I have nothing to hide,” he said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
“When we are called upon by law-enforcement agents in their investigations, as responsible citizens, it’s our duty to oblige them.”
Obasa calls emergency plenary
Findings by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that after Mr Obasa left the EFCC office late on Thursday, he called an emergency plenary of the Lagos assembly for Friday morning.
The emergency notice of the plenary, which was issued around 3 a.m. on Friday, was sent to members by the deputy majority leader of the house, Naheem Adams, who represents Eti-Osa 1 state constituency.
According to the notice, two motions were listed for discussions. They are the “Matter of recklessness of tanker drivers (petroleum and gas products) and incessant gas explosions in Lagos State,” and “Excessive use of force, abuse of power and the menace caused by federal anti-robbery squad (FSARS).”
But two officials of the assembly who spoke to our reporter on the condition of anonymity said the emergency plenary called by the speaker could be to “prove to the world that he was out of the EFCC’s net.
“Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we have always held plenaries on Mondays. So when we met on Monday, we adjourned to next Monday. So we were surprised to see a notice of meeting for Friday in the middle of the night. The two items listed are not new in any way,” one of the sources said.