Sterling Bank Plc v. Stella Oduah et al is a lawsuit in which the plaintiff is seeking to recover the sum of $16.4 and N100.5 million from the former Minister for Aviation Stella Oduah, and companies owned and controlled by her pursuant to the unconditional personal guarantee. At the time the loan as granted in 2012, the embattled Senator representing Anambra North Senatorial district provided the plaintiff Sterling Bank Plc with a statement of net worth showing her assets to be worth N135 billion. A whopping $871m dollars – the exchange rate of the dollar to the Naira in October 2012 was approximately N155 to $1.
This revelation raises a couple of questions that the EFCC can help us unravel. Some of them are:
Does the income and corporate tax information in the possession of the Federal Inland Tax Revenue and that EFCC has a right to support the acquisition of that net worth?
Does the Asset Declaration Form in possession of the ICPC which was filed back in May/June 2011 disclose that net worth?
Assuming she had that net worth did she commit a crime if she did not disclose it to the ICPC (remember the Senate President Olusola Saraki is on trial for a similar offense!)?
If she did not have that net worth, did she commit a financial crime which is under EFCC’s jurisdiction?
If she had that net worth, did she pay the appropriate personal and corporate income taxes?
If she lied on her asset declaration form would she go on trial like Saraki?
I do not expect the EFCC to bat an eye or give a damn about the concerns raised here. But for the love of my country, I would be happy to be wrong and see EFCC address the above questions not just because I have raised them but as the first steps in the redemption of its badly battered image.
I believe that considerable information regarding corruption in Nigeria can be gleaned from the public domain if only the EFCC and its chairman, Ibrahim Magu, start the day by scanning the pages of Nigerian newspapers and news portals for revelations and allegations of ongoing corrupt practices criminal regarding our resources. They have often responded to these revelations and allegations by challenging those making them provide the evidence to prove it. I will repeat once again that EFCC has no right to demand proof from those making the allegations because they do not possess the enormous power and resources that the EFCC has.
Once allegations and revelations are sufficient to support the probability that a crime within the jurisdiction of the EFCC has been committed it becomes the legal obligation of the EFCC to commence investigations rather than ask for evidence. There is nothing wrong a with providing evidence to the EFCC if it is readily available, but a lack of availability does not invalidate the allegation. Assume for a moment that a low-level bank clerk comes across a bank account with huge bank balance in it and copies the name of the account holder, bank balance, etc. but does not want to print because the system may be able to detect the source of the print job. He or she then passes the information to the media because of lack of trust in the EFCC. Does that prove the account does not exist or does not contain the huge balance? The logical next step for any law enforcement agency saddled with fighting corruption will be to take the preliminary step of confirming the existence of the account, the balance, and a complete holistic assessment. A positive outcome of this preliminary step should encourage further investigation. But what does our EFCC do? It yells “show us the evidence” as an excuse for not doing its job out of fear that it might be stepping on toes.
Before I rest my case I will like to deal with another corruption-related matter that just emerged:
EFCC, Ex-Customs Boss Dikko, 17 Vehicles and Two Detainees
The EFCC announced today that it has recovered 17 exotic vehicle’s belonging to Ex-Customs boss Abdullahi Dikko Inde. The vehicles were found hidden in a warehouse in Kaduna also owned by Dikko. The funny part of the story is that rather than arrest the owner of the proceeds of crime, Abdullahi Dikko, the impotent EFCC gleefully announced that arrested and detained two people found in the warehouse and are now helping with the investigation. Helping with what investigation? The guy who knows everything about the vehicles is the crooked ex-Customs boss Dikko who has already refunded billions on Naira that he stole while in office. Why arrest these helpless workers who are probably ordinary warehouse workers who did not even know the story behind the vehicles and Abdullahi Dikko resting comfortably in his mansion built with stolen funds? Unless the EFCC has a good reason to charge these warehouse workers with being in possession of the proceeds of crime, it should show some shame and release them forthwith and arrest Abdullahi Dikko immediately and charge him accordingly!
This opinion article first appeared on Sahara Reporters.