Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: EFCC Seeks El-Rufai's Extradition-Tafa Balogun Wants Back Assets

Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Malam Nasir El-Rufai could be bundled back to this country soon to face charges instituted against him in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC], its chairman Mrs Farida Waziri said in Abuja yesterday.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark six years since the commission was established, Mrs Waziri said el-Rufai has refused to appear before the Commission to make clarifications on some cases pending against him, claiming that he is studying abroad. The Commission is therefore making arrangements to seek his extradition from the United States where he currently lives, the chairman said.

"The case of Nasir El-Rufai has been filed in the court and the Commission will soon commence the process of his extradition. Several other high profile matters will soon be filed in court," she said. EFCC has been seeking the former FCT minister's return to account for the N32 billion in proceeds from the sale of Federal Government houses in Abuja, some of which it said had not been accounted for.

Mrs Waziri also said EFCC is moving to recover in the next 12 months about N120 billion tax money owed to the Federal Government. The commission, she said, has commenced a project tagged 'Eagle-Eye' which will lead to tax investigations in order to recover N120 billion for the Federal Government. She said the Commission has initiated special training for its officials to ensure the project's success.

She also said the Vaswani Brothers, who are being investigated by the Commission over their inability to pay duty for the rice they imported into the country, have agreed to pay the Federal Government N2.5 billion as duties for rice importation. She said only three out of the 6 ships that transported the Vaswanis' rice consignments from Thailand were identified to have delivered their goods to Nigeria.

The Chairman said President Umaru Yar'adua has approved the return to the Nigeria Police Force of the insurance benefits of some policemen which formed part of the N17 billion recovered from the former Inspector General of Police Tafa Balogun. About N400 million in police insurance benefits was part of the money allegedly stolen by the former IGP, she said. She said the police authorities have requested the Commission to release the said money to them and that the Commission had sought the President's approval. However, she said, Alhaji Tafa Balogun has also written to the president seeking the return of assets seized from him.

Mrs Farida Waziri said during her tenure, EFCC has secured 50 convictions in court which represent about a third of all the convictions secured since the establishment of the Commission of 2002. In addition, she said over N50 billion was recovered from various financial crimes suspects.She said, "The Commission has developed and is about to deploy a computer software known as EagleClaw that will change the face of fighting cybercrime and 419 in Nigeria and the whole world. Project EagleClaw is software that sniffs out all fraudulent e-mails and monitors them with the options of shutting down such mails. This means that when fully deployed, all 419 e-mails emanating from Nigeria will either be monitored or shut down."

She said the Commission will in collaboration with the Ministry of Education introduce an anti-corruption curriculum at all levels of education in Nigeria. She said the States and Local Governments must design and adopt an anti-corruption strategy as well as implement it.

Commenting on the hitches in the prosecution of cases, Waziri said special challenges have arisen from frivolous and vexatious injunctions granted by judicial officers restraining the Commission from exercising its statutory functions. She said where such injunctions were given, the Commission filed complaints with the office of the Chief Justice and the National Judicial Council. "There is the need for the establishment of special economic crimes courts to speed up the process of prosecution," she said.

The EFCC Chairman said there are presently 200 pending cases in various courts across the country at various stages of prosecution. They range from corruption, money laundering, fraud, illegal oil bunkering to pipeline vandalism. She said the Commission has recorded over 300 convictions in 6 years of its operation.

She also said government inference, haphazard administration and investigation as well as absence of strategy/blue print for the realisation of the Commission's mandate were some of the problems she found upon assumption as Chairman, in addition to weak administrative structures and absence of career path for officers. She denied charges that EFCC is selective in its investigation or that it is being used by the Presidency against political opponents.

According to her, the case involving the former Delta State Governor James Ibori is still on as against what was reported by some media organisations that the matter was withdrawn.

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