30th May, 2012
A civil society group, Forum for Zero Tolerance to Financial Crimes, on Wednesday in Abuja called on the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to reconsider the decision of the commission to discontinue the prosecution of one of the former directors of Afribank, Mr. Jilbrin Isah, a PDP stalwart, for complicity in the N60 billion fraud in the bank.
In a letter to the EFCC boss by the group’s lawyer, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, the group stated that it was against public interest for the anti-graft agency to withdraw charges against Isah who was the Executive Director, Investment Banking when all the alleged fraudulent dealings that led to the demise of the bank took place.
Last year, the EFCC filed various charges against the directors of the then Afribank at both the Federal High Court Lagos and the Lagos State High Court sitting at Ikeja.
The affected directors of the bank are: the then Managing Director, Mr. Sebastine Adigwe, the Chairman, Chief Osa Sounde, Mr. Jilbrin Isah, Mr. Isa Zailani, Mr. Chinedu Onyia, Mr. Henry Arogundade and Mr. Peter Ololo, all Executive Directors of the bank.
The former leadership of the anti-graft agency headed by Mrs. Farida Waziri, suddenly reversed itself and withdrew charges against Isah under the pretext that he was going to be used as a prosecution witness.
This move ostensibly cleared the way for the former director to go and contest for the office of the governor of Kogi State.
The civil society group noted that the trial of the other directors had since commenced in Lagos but Isah had not been called upon to give evidence against his fellow directors.
While accusing the leadership of EFCC under Waziri of conspiracy to shield Isah from prosecution, the group pointed out that it was not too late to redress the injustice by putting Isah back on trial.
The letter to the EFCC reads, “The suspect was arrested and severally investigated subsequently upon which he was indicted and first arraigned with Sebastian Adigwe, Osa Osunde, Isa Zailani, Chinedu Onyia, Henry Arogundade, Falcon Securities Ltd, and Peter Ololo before the Federal High Court, Lagos with Charge No. FHC/L/294/09.”
Moreover, in the Amended Charges filed of 13th April, 2010, the 33 amended count-charge against the suspect and others revealed that the suspect and others mismanaged and thereby committed a financial crimes to the total tune of over N60 billion contrary the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act Cap. F2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act and the Investments & Securities Act.
The suspect and his co-accused were also arraigned before the High Court of Lagos State, Ikeja in May 2011 with Charge No. 10/160C/2011.
The group however noted that to their consternation and in what can only be depicted as a scheme and official conspiracy, all the charges against Mr. Jibrin Isah, were dropped while the prosecution team turned him to prosecution witness without any justification.
Represented by Mr. Gbolahan Peters and Alhaji Ahmed O. Ibrahim at the press briefing, the group said that they were afraid that justice would not be done unless Isah was brought to justice.
They based their suspicion that EFCC was shielding Isah on the grounds that during the suspect’s initial criminal trial at Federal High Court, Lagos, in 2009, the suspect, though was charged as co-accused was never brought before the court but was busy campaigning to become Peoples Democratic Party flag bearer in Kogi State, while EFCC under the leadership of Waziri maintained that the suspect was nowhere to be found.
They also argued that instances abound in the trial where other accused had queried EFCC’s decision to make Isah, a witness instead of a co-accused considering the enormity of his indictments.
“All the transactions of the banking and financial malpractices which formed the basis of the indictment of all the suspects were well documented with him as the principal accused person, this ordinarily should make his being turned into a prosecution witness defective,” the group maintained.
They reminded Lamorde that corruption had been identified as the root of Nigeria’s under-development and gave the commission seven days within which to apprehend and charge Isah to court failing which they would commence an application for judicial review for an order of mandamus to compel the commission to carry out its constitutional duty.
“No doubt, you are also aware that your commission’s gloomy public perception in fighting economic crimes is not unconnected with your commission’s seeming lack of will to prosecute those who have been apparently indicted,” the group added.
By Nnamdi Felix / Abuja