…also hint that a forensic expert is examining data on the murder of Ini Umoren, assures of Justice.
The former attorney general and Commissioner for Justice of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Uwemedimo Nwoko SAN has revealed the real reasons the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has been after him.
Nwoko who shaded light on 1.4 billion naira allegation, says he is ready to face anti-graft agency in court.
He kept mum for over a month since he was reported to have been arrested on April 13th by the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission but couldn’t ignore the issue when he recently appeared as guest on radio Akwa Ibom 90.5fm.
On the programme, Akwa Ibom Calling, the host, Mr. Michael Bush wanted to know whether or not the EFCC arrested the former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Akwa Ibom State, why EFCC waited for Nwoko to leave office before arresting him, if there is substance in the allegations that Barr. Nwoko was an accomplice in a 1.4 billion naira fraud, whether Nwoko was on the run and his fate in the circumstance of a court action against him. The answers to the questions came with stunning revelations.
Although Mr. Nwoko admitted that the EFCC is doing it’s job and praise them for being civil, respectful and professional throughout the five days period of interrogation, the former chief law officer of Akwa Ibom state disclosed that his travails with the antigraft agency isn’t unconnected with his role in the frustration they faced in 2017 while attempting to investigate the financial transactions of the Akwa Ibom State government under the administration of Senator Godswill Akpabio.
Nwoko who is both a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a life bencher expressed confidence that the claims made against him by the EFCC could just be cover for the intention of punishing him for being the first lawyer to challenge the right of a federal agency to probe the activities of a state government in a federal rebublic.
The EFCC in it’s brief of argument during the legal battle to probe the financial transactions of the past administrations of Akwa Ibom State, had lamented and expressed frustration over the former attorney general’s court order against EFCC’s investigation of Akwa Ibom State Government.
Nwoko maintains that as a constitutional lawyer, he could not afford to sleep on duty and hence his decision to seek the wisdom of the court on whether the EFCC as a federal agency has the right to investigate the financial transaction of a state government under the laws of the federal republic of Nigeria.
EFCC’S CLAIMS AGAINST NWOKO
Several media organizations have given different reasons for why the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is after Barr. Uwemedimo Nwoko but to hear from the horses mouth, popular radio and TV host, Michael Bush put the question to his guest.
“They claimed that in 2015, this was August 2015,that the Akwa Ibom State Government paid bills, outstanding bills and these were bills that accumulated before Governor Udom Emmanuel came into office. They said that from the money that was paid to Paul Usoro, SAN that they saw 65 million naira out of 1.3 billion transferred to my account. So, they said it was a kickback”.
“The other claim, which is very nonsensical is that the legal fees of the Akwa Ibom state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel was paid from the state treasury “, Nwoko replied.
ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS ON 1.4B/65M NAIRA EFCC ALLEGATIONS
To determine justice, the principle of fair hearing is inevitable. The public had a one-sided argument until Mr. Nwoko broke his silence with his own side of the story.
He told Michael Bush that the said 65 million naira transfer he received from the former President of Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro, SAN was meant to pay lawyers of Akwa Ibom State extraction which he was under obligation to coordinate as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.
He added that all the payments he to lawyers were done through e-transfer, making the records of expenditure available to the EFCC easily verifiable.
“EFCC should have asked the circumstances under which Paul Usoro, SAN transferred 65 million naira to my account. As at the time 1.3 billion naira was paid to Paul Usoro, SAN, we were equally running a 37 election tribunal matters, running four tribunals that was relocated from Uyo to Abuja. Paul Usoro was coordinating the entire legal team.
Amongst the legal team were local lawyers, local lawyers in the sense of Akwa Ibom based lawyers and Paul Usoro was handling the Senior Advocates and the other lawyers from outside the state.
He mandated me as Attorney General to coordinate the home based lawyers. So the 65 million naira was for the lawyers I coordinated. Good enough, it was not something that was hidden.
The statement of account which they already had in their file from Zenith Bank reflected that the money was transferred to my account on the 27th, August 2015. On the 28th, I started paying out the monies and good enough, they were all transfers, so they have it in their own record”.
HOW GOV. EMMANUEL’S LEGAL FEES WAS PAID
The second allegation from the EFCC against the immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN is that he used funds from the Akwa Ibom State government through the Ministry of Justice to pay for the the legal fees of Mr. Udom Emmanuel during the post election litigation challenging the victory of the PDP in the 2015 governorship election, an allegation that Nwoko dismisses as false. “It couldn’t have been “, he said.
“The legal fees of His Excellency, the governor was paid totally from the party (PDP) coordinated arrangement. No one naira of Akwa Ibom State money was used to pay the legal bills of the governor. Not one naira and I told the EFCC that “.
REAL REASONS BEHIND THE NWOKO TRAVAILS
Barr. Nwoko said he expected his arrest long before it came. “It was one of the things I expected. I expected that when I leave office, that I will be taken to anywhere in Nigeria, that I will be questioned, that I will be asked to make statements and clarifications”.
“You couldn’t have been in the kind of office that I occupied, did the things I did, stepped on the toes I stepped on and you didn’t anticipate that when you come out, that this kind of thing will happen. Possibly, it may not be the last time. Those things are expected”.
Apart from admitting that his arrest by the EFCC was expected, Barr. Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN expressed the suspicion that he was in the bad books of Nigeria’s antigraft agency because of his role in 2017 when former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio was targeted for probe.
“Let me say this. When I came into office, EFCC was harassing the former governor, His Excellency, Senator Godswill Akpabio and trying to probe into the activities of the state government in the past, (before Udom Emmanuel).
So as a constitutional lawyer, I demanded to know the basis the EFCC as a federal agency was drawing it’s powers from to come and query the way the state government was spending money from, in a federal republic like Nigeria. And I wasn’t satisfied with the answer they gave me so I went to court”.
“We filed the very first suit of that nature in the whole country. I filed that suit in February 2017 and we were doing that matter all along
So because of that matter, we got an injunction stopping the EFCC from interfering with the transactions of the Akwa Ibom State government. Not the transactions of the days of governor Udom Emmanuel, transactions that happened before he came into government”.
“When we got the injunction, the EFCC wasn’t happy with me because they said such a thing has not happened before in the country, that I’m the only person that came to do it and I told them that I swore to uphold the constitution and what I’m taking to court for interpretation is the same constitution I swore to uphold. What you need to do is to send your lawyers to court to come and argue that matter.
If they win, they win, if I win, I win. So because of the injunction, they couldn’t access Akwa Ibom State. They couldn’t make any serious incursion into the state. I think that was one of the reasons they were waiting for me. So, I also knew that when I leave government, that they would come for me. That’s why I said I was expecting them and kept all my records very straight”.
THE QUESTION EFCC COULDN’T ANSWER
To cement his suspicion that his travails in the hands of Nigeria’s antigraft agency was a vendetta, Barr. Nwoko made it known that he asked questions that EFCC couldn’t answer.
“The EFCC had my statement of account and saw the transfers made to lawyers, how some lawyers received 10 million and some received 5 million. “
“My question therefore to them was, if you were sincere about investigating me, why didn’t you go to the lawyers to say, I have seen that on the 27th of August 2015th, Uwemedimo Nwoko received 65 million and that on the 28th,this amount was transferred to you, what was the money for, were you in the legal team, did he buy land with it? They could have done that but that question was never asked. I asked why but they had no answer to it. “
WHAT’S NEXT IN THE NWOKO VERSUS EFCC SHOWDOWN
As Barr. Nwoko is a man of public interest, questions regarding the next line of action on the Nwoko/EFCC dispute continue to form subject of public discuss. The public wants to know if the matter will proceed to court. EFCC is yet to say whether or not it will charge Mr. Nwoko to court but the Senior Advocate of Nigeria and life bencher has insisted that EFCC has no case and that it’s allegations hold no matter. He however expressed readiness to battle it out where the antigraft agency goes to court.
“I’m ready for anything. If I’m going to be charged to court, I’ve made my statement. My belief is that when they read through my statement and they need any further documents which are already available to them, they have a team of lawyers to look at the documents and determine whether given what I have said, there is a valid case in court to pursue. If they don’t have a case, they will also advice themselves properly “.
On the gruesome murder of a job seeker, Ini Umoren by a self confessed suspect, Mr. Uduak Akpan, Barr. Nwoko hinted that he has already hired the services of a forensic expert who is examining all the facts of the case as they await prosecution of the suspect. Nwoko who was appointed by a major Socio-cultural group in Akwa Ibom, Ati Annang to hold a watching brief said he is optimistic that justice will prevail in the case that has caught global attention.