Dariye, Test Case for Govs, Says EFCC

  • Friday, November 26, 2004 - By Chuks Okocha And Agaju Madugba
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'Why Obasanjo moved against Plateau gov'

The Economic and Finan-cial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said it would soon produce evidence of financial misdeeds against Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State.

The Commission Chairman, Alhaji Nuhu Ribadu, who said the evidence against Dariye was a product of a comprehensive investigation told reporters in Kaduna yesterday that the inquisition would be a test case for the 36 state governors.

Ribadu's pronouncement came followed a statement by the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Bala Ibn Na'Allah, to the effect that any review of the 1999 Constitution will surely knock off the immunity clause provided to protect the president, vice president, governors and their deputies under Section 308 from any civil or criminal proceedings.

Both Ribadu and Na'Allah were in Kaduna to attend a summit on Corrupt Practices and Financial Crimes in Nigeria, organised by the House Committee on Anti-corruption, National Ethics and Values, in collaboration with the African Diaspora Initiative.

According to Ribadu, "give us time. We are coming out with a complete dossier of what we have investigated (against Dariye). It is something that is going to be massive. It is going to be a mind blowing thing."

In a paper he presented at the summit, Ribadu campaigned for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution, in order to "remove those constraints in the enforcement of economic and financial crimes.

"There is need to (also) amend the Evidence Act, the Criminal Procedure Act and Criminal Procedure Code, to accommodate the technological advancement and challenges of our contemporary times.

"Corruption and financial crimes are non-violent and committed in most cases by those who are charged with the responsibility of taking care of funds or their collaborators.

"We do not need Transparency International to tell us that corruption and other economic crimes are the bane of our development efforts.

"Their judgement, wrongly or rightly is a reflection of what we have given to the world - 419, money laundering, inflated contracts, scam mails, illegal oil bunkering, disappearance of ships etc," he said.

Speaking on the role of the legislature in the campaign against corruption, Na'Allah explained that the issue of immunity for governors constituted a clog in the war against corruption.

He said the immunity clause made it virtually impossible for the public to feel the impact of the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).

According to him, "what has remained a thorn in the flesh of the two agencies is the issue of immunity for the executive governors, which is being addressed through the on-going constitutional review.

"The original immunity clause in the constitution was well-intended.

"It was inserted there on the assumption that people who hold public offices would perform the function of their offices in accordance with the oath of office.

"But we have seen the different employment of this immunity clause. It therefore means that there is ground to really do something about it. And, I assure you that something is being done about it by the National Assembly.

Also speaking at the summit, Speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, described corruption as a reprehensible and unjust practice that undermines the legitimacy and stability of government.

"It (corruption) is a weapon of mass destruction and terror employed by the rich and the powerful, against the poor and the week.

"No regime can endure and prosper in an atmosphere of injustice which corruption promotes.

"It is imperative for us to recognise the fact that the legislature has fully endorsed and provided full support for all the initiatives brought forward by the executive branch of government in the drive against corruption," he said.

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Public Matters, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said in Abuja that the presidency moved against Dariye because no responsible government will keep quiet when allegations of corruption are made against such a senior official.

Speaking with newsmen in his monthly press briefing, Fani Kayode said, " The President has nothing personal against the Governor of Plateau State, Chief Joshua Dariye, the President is only interested in maintaining law and order, peace and tranqulity."

"No President worth his taste will keep quiet when such grave allegations of corruption are made against a senior government official, especially by a foreign government. Also coming at a time when the country is rated third most corrupt country by the Transparency International," he said.

Fani-Kayode said the resort to showing video clips of the allegation of corrupt practices against Dariye was to prove that the governor was actually corrupt.

The presidency had early this month circulated a five-page report endorsed by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Akin Olujinmi, detailing allegations of financial misdeeds against Dariye.

The report was then designed to prevent Dariye from being reinstated as the six-month emergency rule imposed on Plateau State in which all democratic structures were suspended expired.

In a letter to Chief Audu Ogbeh, National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dated November 10, and attached to a copy of the AG's report, President Obasanjo requested the PDP chairman "to bring to the attention of all the party leaders... the facts of the criminal allegatiuons levelled by the British government as well as the offences disclosed by the facts both in the UK and in Nigeria."

"It is my view that apart from the legal and constitutional issues raised in the letter, our party has a compelling moral duty and responsibility to do all that is needful in this matter, particularly with Plateau State Assembly if it is to remain relevant, credible and to sustain its enviable position now and in the future."

Olujinmi in his report titled "Allegations of Criminal Offences Against Governor Joshua Dariye," provided "facts" detailing how Dariye had been 'indicted in London in the case of illegal transfer of cash worth $11,560 in a locked brief case through one Christopher Mekwunye.

Further search by the London metropolitan police showed that Dariye had been maintaining foreign account in which hundreds of thousands of pounds were lodged at various times at Barclays Bank and National Westminster Plc where he has eight pounds and dollars denominated accounts contrary to the Code of Conduct of Public Officers.

An account of Dariye's encounter with the British police authorities for carrying huge amount of money in cash contrary to British laws was also stated. Also, the facts of Dariye's ownership of choice property in London, Abuja, Jos which he failed to disclose in his Assets Declaration forms in 1999 and 2003 were listed.

The report noted that Dariye had allegedly committed offences of money laundering and economic crimes under British laws and violated Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (prohbition) Act, Section 29 of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring etc) Act 1993, Section 164 of the Penal Code in relation to False Declaration among other laws in Nigeria.

However, Dariye had claimed that his arrest in London was arranged by some people in Nigeria bent on discrediting him. He also stated that before the incident he had been warned not to travel or else he would be arrested at his destination point.

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