The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), on Thursday, spoke on its efforts at investigating past and current public officials suspected to have committed offshore assets and investment violations following a recent Pandora Papers revelations.
Mohammed Isah, the chairperson of CCB, told journalists at a media briefing in Abuja, that the bureau was collaborating with members of the civil society organisations (CSOs) who participated in the revelation.
“The CCB has already initiated investigation on both public officers in Nigeria that appeared in the Pandora Papers’ leaks,” Mr Isah revealed on Thursday, adding, “There are other public officers whom we are looking for more details about their roles in the Pandora Papers’ investigation.”
PREMIUM TIMES, which is among 151 media outlets partnering in the ICIJ-led Pandora Papers project, has exposed some Nigerian former and current governors, lawmakers, and other senior officials, including a judge, as having secret, usually suspicious, financial dealings tucked away in secrecy and tax havens.
Past and current officials exposed by PREMIUM TIMES in the Pandora Papers series include former Anambra State Governor and former Vice Presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Peter Obi; acting Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko; and former Minister of Aviation and serving senator, Stella Oduah.
Others are Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State, Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State as well as his associates including former Lagos Bola Tinubu, and Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun.
In an October 12 letter to PREMIUM TIMES, the bureau acknowledged the Pandora Papers project and “what it portends” as well as how the landmark global investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists “has created ripples across the globe.”
It then sought cooperation to facilitate its investigations and “where possible” prosecution of Nigerians involved.
“Sadly, it is no longer news that some current and former public officials in Nigeria featured prominently in the acquisition of secret properties, which they failed to declare to the Code of Conduct Bureau as enshrined in the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended,” the CCB said in its letter.
“Consequent upon this and also noting your passion for the pursuit of integrity, accountability, and transparent society, the Bureau seeks to partner with you in the area of information sharing to enable it to investigate and where possible prosecute those found guilty at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.”
In a reply, PREMIUM TIMES Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, welcomed the CCB’s request.
“The primary motivation for our work is to help the public obtain the information they need to ask questions and make informed decisions and for law enforcement agencies to have the leads they require for necessary actions,” Mr Mojeed said in a letter dated October 18.
‘Pandora Papers suspects won’t get away like Saraki’
The CCB boss delved into the acquittal of Bukola Saraki, a former Senate President, who stood trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over allegations of false declarations.
Mr Isah said unlike the case of Mr Saraki who was acquitted based “technical grounds,” public individuals in Nigeria who are found to be involved in the Pandora Papers’ exposè would have no escape route around the law.
“Unlike Saraki who escaped justice on technical grounds, Nigerians found to be involved in the Pandora Papers investigation will have a straightforward trial,” the CCB boss said.
The CCT had in June 2017, dismissed the case of false asset declaration against Mr Saraki.
In a ruling, the tribunal chairman, Danladi Umar, said the prosecution had failed to prove its allegations.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported that the CCB had in September 2015 charged Mr Saraki with 13 counts of assets declaration breaches.
In charge number ABT/01/15, dated September 11 and filed before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Mr. Saraki is accused of offences ranging from anticipatory declaration of assets to making false declaration of assets in forms he filed before the Code of Conduct Bureau while he was governor of Kwara state.
According to the charges, the Senate President was also accused of failing to declare some assets he acquired while in office as governor.
Among other offences, including allegedly acquiring assets beyond his legitimate earnings, Mr. Saraki was also accused of operating foreign accounts while being a public officer – governor and senator.
Akpabio’s N100 million bribery allegation
The CCB chair also said Nigerians would know the outcome of its investigation into a bribery allegation involving the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio.
Mr Akpabio’s was accused of bribing the bureau’s officials to the tune of N100 million so as to assist the sole administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Akwa Effiong, to fill in and backdate his assets declaration forms from 2012 till date.
Addressing journalists at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, the Chairman of the CCB, Mohammed Isah, said the State Security Service (SSS) was drafted into the investigation.
Mr Isah, a professor of law, noted its probe in the bribery allegation was wide-ranging with a view to establishing the veracity or otherwise of the claims.
It will be recalled that the bureau announced an enquiry into the bribery saga in February this year following media report on the alleged sleaze.
A federal commissioner of the CCB, Ehiozuwa Agbonayunma, who chaired the sub-committee set up by CCB to investigate the matter, had described the allegation as “grievous.”
Flanked by all the federal commissioners of the CCB at the press conference, Mr Isah said: “The CCB went extra-miles and brought in other security operatives, and those suspected to have taken part in the said bribery allegation were invited by the various security agencies, particularly the SSS.”
He added: “The outcome of the investigation is in the pipeline; whatever the findings are after the deliberations, they will be made public to Nigerians.”
The bureau’s many woes
The event on Thursday offered a platform for the CCB to ventilate its operational encumbrances.
Top on the list was poor manpower for an intractable problem of corruption in Nigeria’s public service.
“Our staff are poorly paid,” the CCB chairman began.
“We have less than 800 personnel across the country for 10 million public officers whom we are investigating their assets,” Mr Isah lamented, warning of the “danger ahead if new persons are not recruited to replace the deceased and retired.”
On budgetary allocations, Mr Isah said some persons were out to “strangulate” the bureau by starving it of funding.
“We get N36 million as overhead per release, and this year, we have received nine releases of N297 million,” he explained.
“Monitoring more than 10 million public officers is not easy,” Mr Isah revealed of the manpower shortage.
“Of all its mandate, verification is one of the most, of not the most tedious exercise. It is capital intensive. Despite the above, and the fact that the bureau is poorly funded considering our budgetary allocation, we are determined to go ahead with the process to ensure the success of the fight against corruption,” he assured.
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