21 January 2008

Nigeria: Igbinedion Reports to EFCC, Detained

Lagos — CHIEF Lucky Igbinedion, the immediate past governor of Edo State, was taken into custody yesterday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after he reported at the Lagos office of the commission.

He had flown in from Abuja where he initially planned to submit himself for interrogation. He was,

Ex-Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion , and his counsel, Richard Ahonaruogo, at the EFCC office in Lagos . Photo: Joe Akintola, Photo Editor.

however, directed to go to Lagos.

He arrived the Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos office of the anti-graft agency at about 12.45 p.m. in a black Toyota Corolla car.

Accompanying him were four of his lawyers led by Chief Adetunji Oyeyipo (SAN). Also with him was his younger brother, Dr. Fred Igbinedion.

The former governor signed in at the front desk of the commission at about 12.54 p.m. and was then ushered into the main office.

The lawyers who were with him, later came out, while one of them returned inside. His brother also left after a while. It was gathered that the former governor wrote a statement.

Chief Igbinedion returned to the country on Sunday after several months abroad. He has already been slammed with a 142-count charge of money laundering, stealing and fraud.

Senators react

However, the three Senators from Edo State yesterday reacted variously to Chief Igbinedion's arrest.

Welcoming the arrest as an opportunity for the former governor to account for the funds that accrued to the state in the eight years of his stewardship, Senator Yisa Braimoh (PDP, Edo North) called for the prosecution of subordinates he claimed aided former governors indicted for corruption.

Senator Ehigie Uzamere (PDP, Edo South) in welcoming the arrest said the prosecution of the former governor would be an opportunity for him to clear himself of repeated allegations of corruption. He said assessment of Chief Igbinedion's performance must be based on his limitations as a person.

The third Senator from the state, Senator Odion Ugbesia (PDP, Edo Central) declined to comment when contacted on his mobile phone yesterday as he pleaded to be left out of the story.

"Yes, it is a relief to every Edolite that this governor is being brought to book," Senator Braimoh said on phone yesterday.

"When you have a state whose governor could not perform for eight years and funds are being released to the state monthly and nothing is happening, so what is happening to the funds? Common sense tells you that the more you look the less you see," he said.

Senator Braimoh, vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, nevertheless noted that deputies and senior aides of all former governors now under trial had been left unscathed.

"Can his immediate lieutenants whilst in office claim ignorance or are they accomplices and collaborators at lower scales? Can a state governor successfully defraud a state to such magnitude as being published daily by the EFCC without the connivance of his Deputy or SSG? That is the question the EFCC must answer. We need to clean the whole stable and the time is now," he said.

In his own response to the arrest, Senator Uzamere who represents Igbinedion in the Senate said: "Well, I think he has done the right thing rather than waiting to be declared as a fugitive. Nobody is above the law, it is the law that is going to determine whether he is guilty or not.

"So, for taking a step to come, I think he has taken a bold step. Let's see how it goes but the law must take its course," Uzamere, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, said.

Noting that the governor performed within his own limitations, he said: "He has done his best and his best may not be the best for other people. It is the courts that will finally tell whether he is guilty or not."

Senator Ugbesia in his own response said: "No, no, no, leave me out of it. No comment about that. Let's talk about other matters."

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