What’s an ex-EFCC boss to do next?

By: Ronald Mutum

Former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Lamorde, the second serving police officer to head the country’s apex anti-corruption agency has come to a crossroads of sorts in his public service career. Daily Trust gathered that the turbulence that follows the job of heading the anti-corruption agency amplifies after leaving office, as proven by the antecedents of past heads of the agency, Nuhu Ribadu and Farida Waziri.

A serving police officer, Ribadu was alleged to be selective in investigating corruption, and shortly after his removal from office, he was demoted and hounded out of the police force. He eventually went on self-exile before returning back to a restitution of sorts.

Waziri, a retired police officer as chairperson of the commission, had a single term in office, and she made popular the phrase “when you fight corruption, corruption fights back,” in describing purported detractors. Sacked from office during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, she also left the country for the United Kingdom where she cooled off surrounded by family.

Lamorde, according to a source, was almost certainly handicapped by the circumstances of his predecessors, being witness to what happened after they left office, may have caused the perceived low performance of the commission under his watch. Another source hinted that as a serving police officer who had concerns about his career trajectory, he may have had cause to ponder before stepping on the toes of Politically Exposed Persons, (PEPs) who are said to perpetuate a large percentage of financial crimes in the country.

Lamorde’s quest to prosecute some politically exposed persons came with its baggage, as many petitions and protests followed the recent investigations and prosecution of some former governors and top government officials. He was also alleged to have looted a whopping N1 trillion recovered proceeds of corruption, an accusation that kickstarted a probe by the Senate, which invited Lamorde to explain. The Senate, shortly after he was removed from office, postponed the hearing.

A national newspaper (not Daily Trust) reported that the decision to launch a full-scale investigation on Lamorde started after one George Uboh appeared before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on August 23 where he alleged that Lamorde looted about N1trillion. In his petition to the Senate, Uboh said the fraud allegedly dates back to Lamorde’s days as the Director of Operations of the EFCC between 2003 and 2007, as well as an acting Chairman of the commission between June 2007 and May 2008, when the then chairman of the anti-graft agency, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, was away for a course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos.

Uboh also alleged that the EFCC had not accounted for “offshore recoveries” and that “over half of the assets seized from suspects are not reflected in EFCC exhibit records.” He further accused Lamorde of conspiring with some EFCC officers and external auditors “to operate and conceal a recovery account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and excluded the balances from your audited financial statements between 2005 and 2011.” Around October 12th 2015, Lamorde sued The Sun Publishing Company, owners of The Sun Newspaper, for allegedly publishing a false story about him, asking for N1 billion damages.

Lamorde argued that the story published by the newspaper that he was being investigated for embezzling N1 trillion, allegedly being money recovered by the EFCC from corrupt public officials was false. In the statement of claim, Lamorde said the allegations made by the defendant are untrue and actuated by malice, making him subject to numerous telephone calls from professional colleagues, international donor agencies, multinational organisations, relations, friends and religious leaders expressing disgust and contempt at his alleged disgraceful, unpatriotic conduct.

In the suit, Lamorde asked the court to award the sum of N1 billion against the defendants, as damages for the words published in the said story. Again on Wednesday October 28th 2015, Lamorde filed a suit against The Punch Newspaper, too.

In the suit which was filed on behalf of the EFCC chairman by Festus Keyamo, it alleged that the newspaper in a story titled “Alleged N1trn diversion: FG orders EFCC to probe Lamorde,” published on October, 27, 2015, was malicious to the person of Lamode. The plaintiff demanded the sum of N1billion as damages from the newspaper for the words published in the publication. The suit also demanded a retraction and an unreserved apology by the paper for the words published concerning the plaintiff.

Lamorde also want the court to restrain the newspaper from further publishing or causing to be published any libellous, injurious or defamatory words against him. Although the Senate has postponed its investigation into the matter, the EFCC had carried adverts in newspapers ‘setting the records straight,’ on the allegations, it is yet to be unconfirmed whether the ex-EFCC boss will drop the matters in court.

However, Lamorde is expected back to the Police Force after his stint as Chairman of the anti graft commission, the police said in an interview with Daily Trust. Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Olabisi Kolawole said Lamorde will return to the Police to take up another assignment, adding that the redeployment of Lamorde, who is a Commissioner of Police (CP), is at the discretion of the Inspector-General of Police.

Daily Trust gathered that though Lamorde was asked to go on terminal leave without renewal of his five-year stint as chairman of the EFCC, he is still at liberty to resign or return to the police.

An EFCC source said: “Lamorde is still within the employment of the police, although now on terminal leave which will end in February 2016.” It added that he would make up his mind on what to do after the leave, on whether to return to the police or resign.

An insider pointed out that Lamorde still has many years before his official retirement from the police, and hinted that life in the force may not be peaceful as the former chairman may have angered many powerful people while at the helm of affairs at the EFCC, suggesting that he leverage his over 12 years experience in the commission and go into private consultancy.

Larmorde, it is said, could lend his professional experience as a former anti-graft chief in Nigeria to other countries in the African continent or internationally on matters relating to the anti-corruption crusade. At the occasion of his handing over the leadership of the Commission to his successor Ibrahim Magu, another serving police officer, Lamorde, charged staff of the agency to be patriotic and desist from mudslinging.

Describing new EFCC czar Magu as a “brother, colleague and friend”, Lamorde urged members of staff to give the new EFCC boss all the support that is needed to move the anti-graft agency forward. “He needs all the support and encouragement he can get, and he should not be distracted with unnecessary write-ups,” he said. He also described his exit as “an act of God”, saying, “If you see it like that you won’t blame anybody, and you will have peace of mind. Let’s take whatever happens as an act of God.” But what’s next for the former EFCC boss remains as misty as the future of the anti-graft organisation.

SOURCE: WEEKLY TRUST

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