Chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Godfrey Chukwuka Utazi, has expressed the readiness of the Committee to support the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in the discharge of its statutory duties.
Speaking at the 2016 budget defence session held on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at the National Assembly in Abuja, Utazi said: “We are here to assess your budget performance for last year with a view to ensuring that the EFCC is strengthened.”
Utazi, who called for probity and accountability in public offices, added that the essence of the Committee’s oversight functions so far had been to know the challenges facing the EFCC.
While stating the breakdown of the Commission’s budget performance for 2015 and projections for 2016, acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, who thanked the Senate Committee for its continued support, expressed the hope for a cordial relationship between the EFCC and the National Assembly.
He explained that the total approved appropriation for 2015 was over N10.4bn.
According to him, “The Commission received 100% personnel funds in 2015, 50% of capital appropriation and 87% of overhead appropriation.
‘’The proposed budget for 2016 is as follows: Capital Expenditure – N11, 422, 991, 540 (Eleven Billion, Four Hundred and Twenty Two Million, Nine Hundred and Ninety-Nine Thousand, Five Hundred and Forty Naira); Overhead- N2, 999,245, 671 (Two Billion, Nine Hundred and Ninety- Nine Million, Two Hundred and Forty- Five Thousand, Six Hundred and Seventy- One Naira and Personnel as proposed by the Ministry of Budget and Planning – N6,664,040,791 (Six Billion, Six Hundred and Sixty -Four Million, Forty Thousand, Seven Hundred and Ninety One Naira).’’
Magu stated that the Commission could not give a figure for its own personnel budget because the 2016 personnel budget template designed by the Ministry of Budget and Planning only made provision for detailed nominal roll without estimate; hence, the Commission was not in a position to justify the Ministry’s proposed figure.
He urged the Committee to consider the EFCC’s proposal favourably, saying that “The Commission’s ability to fight corruption will be adversely affected if not adequately funded. Some of the areas that could be affected negatively include personnel, overheads, operations and capital projects”.
In his remark, a Committee member, Senator Hamma Misau, said the budget for the EFCC was not enough.
According to him, “If you look at the body language of the President, EFCC has not even started. We need the EFCC to be able to do more. I think EFCC has done a good job. This is the first time an agency is bringing just N39m for the purchase and maintenance of vehicles.
“We cannot claim to fight corruption without properly equipping the EFCC. The National Assembly is supportive and we cannot just be supportive with our mouths. We have looked at the projections and the shortfalls and there is no meeting point. This is the final bus-stop in terms of allocating resources. We will tinker with the budget and see what can be done to help the EFCC.’’
Utazi further explained that the Committee’s oversight functions so far had kept it in an informed position.
He added: “We have seen what you have on ground. This country is not saving resources by paying rent. You cannot be doing the kind of job you are doing around hotels. Your new head office is a matter of priority.
“You have made a good defence. We have listened to you and now the ball is in our court and we will make sure things work well.”
Meanwhile, the EFCC, on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 re-arraigned the duo of immediate past Kwara State Commissioner for Information, Olatunji Oyeyemi Moronfoye, and Ope Saraki, cousin to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and former Special Adviser on Millennium Development Goals to Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed before Justice Oluremi O. Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court sitting in Ilorin for offences bordering on abuse of office, diversion of public funds and money laundering.
Moronfoye and Saraki who were first arraigned on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 had to re-enter their plea Tuesday following the transfer of the former trial judge, Justice A. O. Faji.
Moronfoye, while being the Special Adviser to former Governor Saraki (now Senate President) allegedly used his position to enrich himself.
Specifically, he allegedly awarded contracts to the tune of N200million (two hundred million naira) for the renovation of Ijagbo Primary Health Centre and Specialist Hospitals within the State to a company in which he has interest and was the sole signatory to its account.
Similarly, Saraki abused his office and laundered state funds for his personal benefit by awarding inflated contracts to companies owned by his cronies.
In one of the transactions involving purchase of buses for the State, Saraki fraudulently procured thirteen Hiace buses from a “Local Car Dealer” and converted same to ambulance instead of a factory-built ambulance for which a contract of N171,990,000.00 (one hundred and seventy one million, nine hundred and ninety thousand naira) was awarded to Chemiroy Nigeria Limited.
One of the counts reads:
“That you, Ope Saraki, being the Special Adviser on Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to Governor of Kwara State sometime in 2012 at Ilorin within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did by undue interest conducted procurement fraud in the procurement of 13 units of ambulance for 13 General Specialist Hospitals in Kwara State at the sum of N171,990, 000.00 (one hundred and seventy one million, nine hundred and ninety thousand naira only), a contract awarded to Chemiroy Nigeria Limited and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 58 (4) (b) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and punishable under Section 58 (5) of the same Act.”
Moronfoye and Saraki, at Tuesday’s sitting, again pleaded not guilty to three and five counts preferred against them respectively.
In view of their plea, counsel to EFCC, Joseph Uzor urged the court for a date to commence trial.
However, J. O. Olatoke, SAN and S. I. Abaya representing the accused persons prayed the court to allow the defendants continue with the bail terms earlier granted them by the first trial judge, Justice Faji, having not breached the terms.
Justice Oguntoyinbo, in response to both counsel’s applications, adjourned to April 4 and 5, 2016 for trial and ordered the accused persons to continue with the bail earlier granted them.
It would be recalled that, Justcie Faji had on May 13, 2015 admitted Moronfoye and Saraki to bail in the sum of N50m (fifty million naira) and two sureties in like sum. The sureties must produce “Certificate of Occupancy” of landed property within urban area of Ilorin and must swear to affidavit of means. The sureties must also produce evidence of tax payment for three years. The accused persons must be reporting to EFCC Head Office, Abuja every three weeks and must notify EFCC whenever they intend to travel.
While Moronfoye retains custody of his “International passport”, Saraki, under the said bail terms, would have his deposited with the court.