The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday re-arrested a permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment, Clement Illoh Onubuogo, for his involvement in the embezzlement of N10bn Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P) funds.
Mr. Onubuogo was arrested near the Federal High court in Ikoyi, Lagos as he was leaving the premises after the adjournment of his ongoing criminal trial on false asset declaration.
According to the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, the permanent secretary had been invited for questioning but refused to honor the invitation which necessitated his arrest this morning. He allegedly received N606 million from the SURE-P fraud.
The defendant had gone to court for his false asset declaration trial, but the case was adjourned till November 30 due to the absence of the prosecution.
Shortly after leaving the courtroom, the defense counsel came back to inform the judge that his client had been whisked away by the EFCC. He faulted the EFCC for re-arresting Mr. Onuguogo after he had been granted bail by the court.
Mr. Oyedepo argued that EFCC did not break any law by the re-arrest, stating that the law empowers any law enforcement agency to re-arrest a person undergoing trial if fresh facts about the matter emerge. He further argued that the crime for which Mr. Onuguogo was re-arrested was different from the crime for which he had been granted bail, making his re-arrest lawful.
Justice Kuewumi agreed with Mr. Oyedepo’s submission that a person undergoing trial can be re-arrested if he has been found to have committed a separate crime. The presiding judge said he would not stop the agency from doing its job so long as it acted within the confines of the law.
He then said having already adjourned the case, there was nothing he could do about the permanent secretary’s re-arrest.
The EFCC had approached the court in August for the interim forfeiture of N664 million recovered from the permanent secretary as part of the SURE-P funds released by the federal government when he supervised the scheme.
Two properties - a house located at Ikom Quarters, Issala-Azegba in Delta State and a hotel in 19 Madue Nwafor Street, off Achala Ibuzo Road, Asaba, Delta State - were put forward to the court as items purchased with the sum. The prosecution hence asked the court to forfeit the properties to the government.
At the time, T. S. Awhana represented Mr. Onubuogo to contest the final forfeiture of the properties. The lawyer filed a notice of preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to make the interim forfeiture order.
A verdict has not been given on the final forfeiture of the properties as it was heard during vacation and was sent back to the administrative judge for reassignment.