The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is currently vetting the Rivers State Government for alleged cash withdrawals totalling N117bn. It was gathered on Sunday that the withdrawals from the account of the state government were made in the last three years.
A top official of the commission, said the “curious”withdrawals violated the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act. He stated, “In all, we are investigating cash withdrawals totaling N117bn from the Rivers State accounts in the last three years. The manner the money was withdrawn was suspicious.”
The EFCC source, who cited some of the withdrawals, which he said were curious, said 45 different cheques were issued in the name of one person on June 8, 2015.
According to him, a total of N450m were withdrawn from the state government account in the Zenith Bank that day. He also gave an example of total withdrawal of N500m on June 9, 2015 through 50 different cheques.
It was also learnt that the commission was on the trail of four different suspects over the suspicious withdrawals from the Zenith Bank by the Rivers State Government.It was gathered that the EFCC would this week invite the Director of Finance and Administration in the Rivers State Government House, Similari Fubura, for interrogation over the withdrawals.
The EFCC source said some senior members of staff of the Zenith Bank were invited by the commission last week, but he could not confirm the exact date of the invitation and whether they had honoured it.the Head, Corporate Communications of Zenith Bank, Mr Victor Adoji, could not be reached for comments.
Calls sent to his mobile number did not go through while a text message sent to him had yet to be responded to as of 8.30pm. Wike dares EFCC, says no Rivers official will appear before it.
But the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has declared that no official of the Rivers State Government will appear before the EFCC over what he called politically-motivated investigations until the commission approached the Court of Appeal to set aside the 2007 judgment barring the commission from investigating the state.
A statement on Sunday signed by the Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, quoted Governor Wike as describing the alleged action of the EFCC as a political witch-hunt.
“We are not afraid of their probe and they have no power to probe us. No government official will appear before the EFCC until they set aside the court judgment of Rivers State Government against them in 2007. We cannot be intimidated.
“They filed for leave to appeal the judgment at the Court of Appeal. Until they set aside the judgment, we will not come,” Wike insisted. the governor pointed out that the media trial by the EFCC would amount to nothing, adding that the state government was aware of the move before it even started.
“We are aware of their tricks. They should not bother engaging in media trial because it will not work. This is a mere political witch-hunt. They must obey theories rule of law. We have filed another action against the EFCC.
“Because they have been served, they are telling the Press that they have started investigating Rivers State Government. This media war by the EFCC will not work. We stand on the rule of law,” Wike added.The statement, however, recalled that he had said that the recent freezing of Akwa Ibom and Benue states accounts by the anti-graft agency was targeted at Rivers State and added that the EFCC had already been detailed to carry out “very unconstitutional activities.”
Wike said, “There is no worse impunity than for the EFCC to shut down a tier of government through the freezing of the accounts of two state governments. “An agency of Federal Government had frozen the accounts of Akwa Ibom and Benue State Governments. This is the worst coup against the constitution and the law-abiding people of those states.
“But the target is not Benue or Akwa Ibom states. The real target is Rivers State. The EFCC as a federal agency has no business with state funds. That is the responsibility of the state House of Assembly.”
According to Part 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, titled, ‘Limitation to make or accept cash payment,’ “No person or body corporate shall, except in a transaction through a financial institution, make or accept cash payment of a sum exceeding – (a) N5,000,000.00 or its equivalent, in the case of an individual; or b) N10,000,000.00 or its equivalent in the case of a body corporate.”
The act also states that “a transfer to or from a foreign country of funds or securities by a person or body corporate including a Money Service Business of a sum exceeding US$10,000 or its equivalent shall be reported to the Central Bank of Nigeria, Securities Exchange Commission or the Commission in writing within 7 days from the date of the transaction.”