The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, says it has opened investigations into revelations by its operative, Mohammed Idris, in a leaked audio tape, on how the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, allegedly compromises cases of corruption in the country.
According to an online newspaper, Daily Nigerian, in one of the multiple audio recordings it obtained and verified, the EFCC operative was discussing with one Abdulbari Yusuf, a younger brother to a retired rear admiral and former director of Navy Accounts, Tahir Yusuf, who was facing charges of corruption.
The Daily Nigerian report reads further: Mr Idris, who is a lawyer, was also heard giving Mr Yusuf’s brother hints on how to defeat the anti-graft commission at the Court of Appeal as well as ways to evacuate money from a particular account.
“If he has money in any account linked with his BVN [Bank Verification Number], he should quickly evacuate them. And if he makes transfers, EFCC will still trace it. He should only withdraw and and then deposit into another account,” he said.
Mr Yusuf had also specifically mentioned Mr Malami as the one in charge of the EFCC, and the minister had ordered the unfreezing of “big accounts” investigated by the commission.
“Malami now controls the EFCC. The commission is in his hands. Once Malami speaks, the account will be unfrozen. They are unfreezing suspects’ accounts, including the big cases,” the EFCC operative said.
The operative was speaking in reference to the frozen account of the retired naval officer’s company, Aston, frozen by the EFCC with N114 million at the formative stage of the investigations.
He also revealed how the attorney-general linked the suspect to a lawyer to handle the case. “Yes, Malami introduced you to Ameh, so it will not be possible to debrief him,” the EFCC official said.
In another audio, the operative was also heard castigating his colleagues for thoroughly investigating suspects, saying the colleagues are “devilish and terrible sets of human beings”.
It was gathered that the ex-naval officer had made failed attempts to unfreeze the account when Ibrahim Magu was the chairman of the commission.
But findings by DAILY NIGERIAN show that the account was recently unfrozen to enable them to quickly move out the money as advised by the EFCC operative.
Sources said owing to the retired military officer’s connection with the “top politicians”, his hotels in Kaduna and Zaria were recently unsealed by the EFCC.
DAILY NIGERIAN findings also show Mr Yusuf is the owner of Grand Pinnacle Luxury Suites in Maiduguri.
Curiously, on the board of Grand Pinnacle Luxury Hotels Limited is Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari, the chairman Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes.
The EFCC, ICPC and NFIU are under the oversight coverage of Mr Kwari’s committee.
In 2020, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the permanent forfeiture of about N500 million the retired naval officer stole while serving as a military officer.
The EFCC had told the court that three out of the seven accounts were operated under the name of a company, Bitmas Enterprise, in Zenith Bank while two were held in Mr Yusuf’s name in the defunct Skye Bank, now Polaris Bank.
In 2018, after the court granted an order for interim forfeiture of the money and ordered the anti-corruption agency to publish the order in a national daily for any interested party to claim the money, Mr Yusuf filed a counter-affidavit, claiming ownership of the money with claims that it was sourced through legitimate avenues.
However, the court disregarded Mr Yusuf’s claims, whose former job description in the Naval administration involved verifying and authenticating documents before payments while keeping custody of accounts balance.
Investigations by EFCC revealed that the ex-naval officer was linked to seven accounts (corporate and personal) with the following details: In Zenith Bank accounts 1011701670 (N32,268,758.50); 9000617386 (N320,132,530.57); 1011904172 (N2,414,034.39); 5360132431 ($34,875.00); 5060017083 (£15,050.00) – all held in the name of Bitmas Enterprises.
Two other accounts – 2120012772 ($57,080.38) and 1060100885 (N2,390,987.69) – were held in Skye Bank in Mr Yusuf’s name.
DAILY NIGERIAN gathered that documents also revealed that the embattled naval officer had made a proposal for a plea bargain to the EFCC, allegedly volunteered to forfeit N200 million, which the commission had rejected.
Umar Gwandu, the spokesman for the minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said the EFCC operative in question should provide evidence of the minister’s interference in the case.
“Since he said the account would be opened if the minister gives orders, did he also give evidence of the minister’s order? The word “if” makes his statement conditional. If he has evidence of the minister’s involvement in the case, then he should provide it.
“You know some people are name-dropping the minister in order to gain favours or to swindle people,” Mr Gwandu added.
Meanwhile, EFCC’s spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, in a reaction to the publication confirmed that, Mohammed Idris, a lawyer and seconded police officer was an operative with the anti-graft Agency, noting that the commission has begun investigations into what he described as “unsubstantiated claims regarding the influence of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami , SAN , on the Commission.”
He adds, “The Commission wishes to state that it has commenced investigation into the content of the audio tape and will activate its internal mechanism to deal with the issues arising therefrom.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the EFCC does not condone acts of corruption. Abuse of privilege for financial gratification by personnel of the Commission is a serious offence against discipline.
“Without prejudice to the outcome of the investigation, snippets of the audio recording clearly showed an abysmally compromised “officer” dropping names to ingratiate his benefactor, a relative of a crime suspect. By the alleged action, the said officer is no more than a corrupt fifth columnist with scant regard for the values of the Commission.
“The action is contemptuous of the established Standard Operating Procedure of the EFCC. Such professional indiscretion has no place in the new EFCC. The Commission encourages citizens who encounter any such unprofessional conduct by personnel of the EFCC to report to the Commission in support of our quest to build a better Agency.
“Reporting such conducts has been made easy by the Eagle Eye App, a financial crimes reporting application which was launched earlier in the year. We encourage members of the public to download the App from the Apple and Google Play Store and put it to use.
“Finally, the Commission wishes to assure the public that its operations are guided by established professional precepts which do not support the kind of discretion that could allow for manipulation by external actors.”