Monday, 19 June 2017

House of Reps rejects EFCC’s invitations to member

House of Reps rejects EFCC’s invitations to member

The House of Representatives has stated the condition under which its members would appear before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the alleged padding of last year’s budget.

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The invitation of its members over the alleged N284 billion budget padding should be routed through Speaker Yakubu Dogara, it said in a letter to EFCC.

It said its Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, would not appear before EFCC if that condition is not met.

But the commission is weighing its options on whether or not to accept the condition.

One of the options is to write a fresh letter to the House, asking Ogor and 12 others, in the first batch of those to be interrogated, to report.

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It was however learnt that any member who fails to report to the EFCC might be arrested since representatives do not enjoy immunity.

It was learnt that the House, in a letter through its Clerk to EFCC, said the proper process is to request for the release of Ogor or any member through the Speaker.

About 50 members of the House have been short-listed for investigation.

But 13 members, including four principal officers, are in the first batch of those already slated for questioning on the alleged budget padding.

The principal officers are Dogara; Deputy Speaker, Lasun Yusuf; Ogor; and House Whip Alhassan Doguwa.

Only Ogor has been invited for interrogation by the EFCC.

The probe followed a petition by former House Appropriation Committee Chairman Abdulmumin Jibrin, who detectives have discovered also has a case to answer.

Jibrin appeared last week for a five-hour grilling on the allegations and issues isolated against him.

He is expected back after the EFCC would have interrogated the initial set of 13 lawmakers.

A source in the commission said: “We have received a letter from the Clerk to the House claiming that he was directed by the Speaker to tell the EFCC that Ogor or any Representative be invited through the Speaker.

“We don’t know what informed such a notice but the Clerk was saying it is the norm. We are weighing options including exhausting all hurdles laid by the House.

“We may write the House but at the end if Ogor and other lawmakers refuse to honour our invitation, we will effect their arrest.

“No member of the House has constitutional immunity from investigation and prosecution.”

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Another source said some members of the House were considering legal alternatives to stop the EFCC from investigating them.

The source added: “Going to court might backfire for the lawmakers because the Supreme Court just delivered a judgment that no one can obtain injunctions against a criminal trial.

“In the case of Olisa Metuh, the Supreme Court upheld the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Section 40 of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, which prohibit courts in the country from granting stay of proceedings in criminal trials.”

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