Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) detectives have questioned two former Group Managing Directors (GMDs) and three former Executive Directors (EDs) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) over their roles in the transfer of $153m to some banks.
The cash was wired from NNPC’s account to the banks on the directive of a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, whose multi-billion naira estate the EFCC plans to seize.
One of the former executive directors is said to have admitted playing a role in the transfer of the money, which belongs to the corporation.
An EFCC source confirmed that the five ex-officials and a few others had been quizzed in connection with the transfer of the funds. He declined to name the former officials, saying it could jeopardise the probe.
“We are however not stopping at this bend because we discovered that some of these officials were used for many illicit transactions,” the source said, adding:
“By the time we extend our investigation to crude oil lifting, you will appreciate the sleaze during the tenure of Diezani as minister of Petroleum Resources. A syndicate was used to perpetrate the fraud in the oil firm.”
An NNPC source confirmed the interrogation of the former officials.
The source said: “This corporation is following the development. The EFCC is on top of the $153million palaver; it has actually been inviting some of our past officials for questioning.
“The good thing is that some of these former officials are still on NNPC’s pension roll. They can be recalled at any time for clarification of some issues.
The source declined to name those quizzed by EFCC, saying he would need to check with the administration and security departments.
The source said NNPC could not react to the ruling of a Federal High Court on the $153million without “getting necessary legal advice”.
“Our board is meeting on the $153million saga and other matters on January 30. What we are doing now is to get the proceedings of the Federal High Court of Friday. We have a very articulate Legal Department which will study it.
“NNPC is a corporation with a board and a chairman. The legal advice will determine our next step after the board’s meeting.
“If the court indicts any former officials, the corporation can still exercise disciplinary control on them.”
The EFCC has started the process of seizing a sprawling estate in Yenagoa, which was traced to Mrs Alison-Madueke.
The asset will be placed on temporary forfeiture pending the arraignment and trial of the ex-minister either in Nigeria or in the United Kingdom.
A source in the commission said: “Since we recorded the breakthrough, our legal unit has been working round the clock on how to seek the nod of the court for a temporary forfeiture order.
“We have obtained relevant data from Bayelsa State Geographic Information System. As a matter of fact, the estate is coded as BGIS/OK/02/16/310 by the agency.
“We will file the required application for the seizure of the estate pending the arraignment and the conclusion of the trial of the ex-Minister. This is a standard benchmark allowed by the law. We are certainly heading for the court.”
Sections 26 and 29 of the EFCC Act read in part: “Any property subject to forfeiture under this Act may be seized by the commission in the following circumstances- (a) the seizure is incidental to an arrest or search; or (b) in the case of property liable to forfeiture upon process issued by the Court following an application made by the Commission in accordance with the prescribed rules.
“Whenever property is seized under any of the provisions of this Act, the commission may-(a) place the property under seal; or (b) remove the property to a place designated by the Commission.
“Properties taken or detained under this section shall be deemed to be in custody of the Commission, subject only to an order of a Court.”
Sections 28 and 34 of the EFCC (Establishment Act) 2004 and Section 13(1) of the Federal High Court Act, 2004 empower the anti-graft agency to invoke Interim Assets Forfeiture Clause.
“Section 28 of the EFCC Act reads: ‘Where a person is arrested for an offence under this Act, the Commission shall immediately trace and attach all the assets and properties of the person acquired as a result of such economic or financial crime and shall thereafter cause to be obtained an interim attachment order from the Court.’
Section 13 of the Federal High Court Act reads in part : “The Court may grant an injunction or appoint a receiver by an interlocutory order in all cases in which it appears to the Court to be just or convenient so to do.
“Any such order may be made either unconditionally or on such terms and conditions as the Court thinks just.”