The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Thursday, said it was still pursuing the N7.1bn fraud case against a former governor of Abia State and current Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Kalu.
The EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, revealed this to State House Correspondents at the 62nd session of the State House Ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
The PUNCH reported that Kalu had sought an Abuja Federal High Court’s order to bar the EFCC from retrying him.
Kalu argued that the Supreme Court’s decision which ordered a retrial of the fraud case did not include him as a party in the retrial.
Granting Kalu’s plea, the court ordered the EFCC to exclude him from the retrial of a case for which he had been tried and convicted.
But fielding questions on the issue, Bawa argued that the former governor has neither been discharged nor acquitted.
He said the EFCC was still pursuing the matter.
“The prosecution lasted for 12 years or so and he was convicted by the court. He went to the Supreme Court and the court said yes because he was elevated to the Court of Appeal, it cannot come back to the lower court and that he should be retried in Lagos.
“So we wanted to arraign him almost immediately in Lagos for the prosecution to start all over again and then he went to court, challenging that he has been discharged and acquitted and nobody discharged and acquitted him and we are still pursuing the matters in court here in Abuja. So, the matter is still ongoing,” Bawa revealed.
Asked if there are politicians under the EFCC’s radar for various misconducts ahead of the 2023 elections, Bawa said “of course, certainly, there are a lot of them that we’re watching and a lot of Nigerians have also provided us with information here and there. We are watching and we want you to join them too and give us that piece of information, if you have any.”
He revealed that although the anti-graft agency has received several petitions on some political candidates, it is sieving through the petitions to establish those that have substance and are worth investigating.
Bawa said, “A lot of petitions left, right and centre, against almost every politician that is contesting for office, but what are we going to do at this hour? Do you want us now to invite one presidential candidate to come and make a statement? The same media is going to say it’s politically motivated.
“We’re working behind the scenes on all the petitions that we’ve received that have merit and I’m not politically motivated and that’s why in every command we have what is called Petition Vetting Committee, made up of officers from the Legal Department as well as officials that review these petitions, to see whether they are in line with our own mandate, before they now recommend whether they can be investigated by the EFCC.
“We even have a manual on that, on the criteria that you need to follow, that guide them in terms of coming to accepting or rejecting a petition.”
The EFCC Chief said the commission is partnering with several stakeholders in to discourage vote buying.
He explained, “We’re doing quite a lot on this; we are working with INEC, we are working with a lot of people, but ultimately, we want to work with Nigerians. Nigerians should know the implication of them selling their votes or accepting that their votes should be bought by these individuals.
“Already, because of what is ongoing now, a lot of people are scared about whether or not they can buy votes, whether or not people will be willing to sell their votes.
“We hope and pray that our modest efforts will be able to curtail this issue of vote buying when it comes to be in February and in March. God willing, we are working towards seeing that we contribute our quota to curtail.”
Bawa also revealed that the anti-graft Commission has secured 8,784 convictions from 2016 to 2022.
He noted that over 50 per cent of the convictions were connected to cybercrimes.
According to him, “in the first full year of the current administration, the EFCC recorded only 195 convictions, that was 2016. In 2017, EFCC recorded 186, we went down; in 2018 we recorded 312 convictions, in 2019, we recorded 1280 convictions, it went up with over 312 percent.
“In 2022, we had COVID so we went down to 976. Last year (2021) which was part of my administration, we recorded an unprecedented 2,220 convictions and this year, even though it has not ended, we have so far recorded 3, 615 convictions.”