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Akwa Ibom governor spent N1.4bn on election – EFCC investigator

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By Robert Egbe and Bassey Anthony, Uyo

The Federal High Court in Lagos was told on Friday that Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, spent N1.4 billion state funds to defend his 2015 election victory.

An Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigating officer, Abdulraman Arabo, told the court that Udom hired Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) to represent him at the tribunal where his victory was being challenged.

But in a swift reaction on Friday, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information, Comrade Iniobong Ememobong, challenged the anti-graft agency to prove its allegation against Governor Emmanuel in a court of competent jurisdiction.

Arabo had told the court that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor hired the immediate-past Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), who invited other SANs to join his legal team.

He said the N1.4bn legal fee paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of Akwa Ibom State.

Usoro, he alleged, then gave back N55 million out of the sum to the state’s Attorney-General.

Arabo testified at the resumed money laundering trial of Usoro before Justice Rilwan Aikawa.

Usoro is facing amended six counts of money laundering.

Also named as defendants in the case are the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan; the state’s Accountant-General, Mfon Udomah; the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Uwemedimo Nwoko and the cashier at the Akwa Ibom State Government House, Margaret Ukpe.

At the commencement of yesterday’s proceedings, the court admitted several exhibits, including statements made to the EFCC by the SANs and Usoro’s Access Bank account package.

They were tendered by EFCC counsel Usman Buhari, through Rabo.

Fielding questions from the prosecutor, the investigator said after being paid the legal fee from the Akwa Ibom State treasury, Usoro gave back N55 million to the state’s Attorney-General.

Under cross-examination, Usoro’s lawyer, Offiong Offiong (SAN), asked the investigator: “During your investigation, did you see that the money in issue was for legal fees of the service rendered to Governor Udom?”

Rabo responded: “It is a payment made from government treasury for personal elections tribunal pursuit of the governor.”

When Offiong pointed out to the investigator that his kick-back claim against Usoro was scandalous, the investigator responded: “My Lord, what I said in my evidence-in-chief was that this defendant (Usoro) lodged the sum of N55 million in the account of Akwa Ibom State Government Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Uwemedimo Nwoko.”

Further hearing continues on January 18-20, 2021.

‘EFCC must prove allegation against Emmanuel in court’

The Akwa Ibom State government on Friday asked the EFCC to proceed to court to prove its allegation that Governor Emmanuel spent N1.4 billion from state coffers for his legal fees in the 2015 governorship election.

Commissioner for information and strategy, Comrade Iniobong Ememobong, said it is only a competent court of justice that can determine the validity of EFCC’s allegation.

Ememobong said the state government would respond to the accusation at the appropriate time as the onus of proof lies on the anti-graft agency, which he said has the constitutional mandate to accuse but not pass judgment.

He said: ‘’It is very simple. The EFCC is not a court of law. It is a prosecution agency, and what the prosecution does is to accuse. So, if EFCC has issues, we will meet in court. It is the judgment of the court that will stand.

‘’EFCC should be very concerned about its internal affairs. Of course, when you make allegations in the media, we will reply at the appropriate time.”

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